Narrator: Whether they’re carved into the side of steep cliffs, prone to natural disasters, or disappear in an instant, some roads can be downright terrifying. From North America to Asia, you can find highways meant for the most fearless drivers. These are eight of the world’s most dangerous roads.
India’s Zoji La is a pass in the Himalayas that ventures 11,575 feet above sea level, completely unpaved as it reaches the summit. The road has no barriers separating drivers from going over the edge of its steep vertical cliffs. Zoji La also experiences extreme weather conditions. This includes heavy snow that can be 50 to 80 feet deep. Over 60 landslides have been reported on the road. In 2018, India approved the Zoji La tunnel project. It involves the construction of an 8.5-mile tunnel under the pass, which will reduce the time to cross the Zoji La from more than three hours to just 15 minutes.
Norway is one of the safest countries to drive in, with only 20 fatal car accidents per 1 million people. However, it’s also home to one of the most dangerous passageways, the Atlantic Ocean Road. The area is prone to major sea storms, meaning the bridges along the road become hazardous for drivers. During inclement weather, massive waves regularly sweep over the pavement, accompanied by powerful gusts of wind. Careless driving can be a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, there are few serious accidents on record because of precautions taken by local drivers and authorities when storms hit. Still, footage shows just how many close calls drivers have encountered and why this is a road trip best saved for a sunny day.
Stretching 414 miles through the most barren parts of Alaska is the James Dalton Highway. Ending just a few miles short of the Arctic Ocean, it’s one of the only roads for getting supplies to some of the northernmost parts of Alaska. The Dalton is no ordinary highway, though. As drivers travel north, they become more and more isolated from civilization. For a full 240-mile stretch, you won’t find gas stations, rest stops, or even cellphone coverage. Travelers must be prepared with emergency supplies and survival gear. A simple breakdown could leave you stranded for days. The extreme Arctic weather creates limited visibility, icy roads, and enormous potholes. In some parts, the temperature can drop to as little as minus 80 degrees at night. This doesn’t help when the road itself is 75% mud and gravel. This highway is best saved for only those whose job requires using it.
The 800-mile Karakoram Highway is a mountainous road that connects Pakistan to China. But the world’s highest paved international highway is also one of the most dangerous. The uppermost section in Pakistan climbs 15,397 feet above sea level but lacks any guardrails and is only wide enough for one car to fit through. Besides the hairpin turns that overlook steep mountain cliffs, it’s the weather that may be Karakoram’s most dangerous factor. The highway is regularly hit with heavy snowfall and monsoons that lead to flooding, landslides, and rockfall. Fatal accidents are not uncommon. Fortunately, as part of the $46 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor project, reconstruction of the highway’s Pakistani portion is underway.
Known worldwide as “Death Road,” Bolivia’s 43-mile Yungas Road connects the country’s capital city, La Paz, to the town of Coroico. Carved into the side of the Cordillera Oriental mountains, it features few guardrails to keep motorists and cyclists from going straight over the edge. Most of the road is a single lane and made up of dirt and gravel. Its most dangerous features include heavy rain and fog, unpredictable landslides, and cliffs that drop 2,000 feet. Until 2006, Yungas Road was the only option for traveling from Coroico to La Paz. That trip is estimated to have claimed 200 to 300 lives a year. Still, many locals and daredevil tourists make the journey along Death Road regularly.
The Passage du Gois isn’t just dangerous, it’s a natural phenomenon. The 3-mile road connects mainland France to the island of Noirmoutier. Due to high tides, it disappears under the ocean twice a day, completely covered by waves. With that length, if you’re caught in the floods, you might not reach dry land before you’re chest-deep in water. These hazards are why France has signs that let people know when the road is passable. Elevated rescue towers are even put in place, and tourists are advised not to use the road unless absolutely necessary.
Winding through the Andes Mountains is Chile’s Caracoles Pass, which translates to “Snail’s Pass.” It gains its name from the dizzying 29 hairpin turns that climb to an elevation of 10,500 feet above sea level, right at the Chilean-Argentinian border. To make matters worse, there are no guardrails. However, the road is covered with snow for most part of the year, forcing drivers to err on the side of caution. The traffic is intense, forming long convoys, hence the name.
The Million Dollar Highway stretches 25 miles on Colorado’s Route 550. But despite being a highway, it takes 42 minutes to drive. That’s because it has a speed limit of 25 miles per hour. The road is carved into the side of the San Juan Mountains and reaches an elevation of 11,018 feet. However, it has no guardrails between the pavement and the sheer cliffs. As it climbs higher, the road only narrows and the turns get tighter. The highway is plagued by extreme weather as well. Storms and heavy snowfall make the road constantly at risk for rockslides and avalanches during the winter months. Records show that from 2005 to 2015 there were 412 accidents and eight fatalities, most involving single-vehicle crashes.
From unguarded cliffs to natural disasters, these terrifying roads all have their own dangers. These hazards and risks are why it truly takes guts to traverse them.
It’s been a couple of hours since your last drink. You feel fine, but what if your judgement is off?
Home breathalyzers – much like, and in some cases the same, ones used by law enforcement during traffic stops – can be a great safeguard for safe driving when used appropriately. These devices essentially run an alcohol breath test, measuring the chemical composition of your breath to generate an estimate of your blood alcohol content (BAC).
In the U.S., the legal BAC limit for drivers over 21 is 0.08% – about two to three standard drinks (that’s 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer). (For those who are underage, limits change by state but are typically .00 to .02%.)
Let’s be clear: Driving while under the influence of alcohol is never okay. But it is possible to, say, have one drink with dinner, or cut yourself off after a few at a party to get behind the wheel a couple of hours later.
But because a lot of factors go into how quickly alcohol leaves your system, it’s smart to confirm your BAC: “You might feel like you’re okay,” Shannon Sovndal, MD, an emergency physician who practices in the Boulder, CO area told Insider, “but because alcohol skews your judgement, you might feel that when it’s not the case.”
You need a more objective method of gauging your sobriety – and blowing into a breathalyzer is one of the simplest ways to confirm you’re good to drive. A reliable and accurate device will tell you within 30 seconds if your BAC is as low as you feel or whether you should just hang out for another hour. As Sovndal said: “You need to be reasonable and responsible, period.”
Because the most important feature of a breathalyzer is an accurate reading, I tested six devices against various sobriety levels to see how easy each one was to use and how accurate the BAC was. At the end of this guide, I go into more detail on how I tested the devices, as well as what to look for when buying one and FAQs like how you use a breathalyzer and who breathalyzers might not test accurately for.
The BACtrack Trace ticks every box for a personal breathalyzer: It is not too expensive, is highly accurate, warms up quickly, and displays results quickly.
Pros: Accurate, reliable, great value for price, quick to use
Cons: Requires recalibration
Our tests found the BACtrack Trace to deliver readings as precise as the more expensive, high-accuracy breathalyzers. It takes about 11 seconds to prepare for use once you turn it on, and it delivers results within just a few seconds as well, so you won’t be stuck staring at the screen for long. At $100, it’s a great value for the price.
The only real drawback is that the breathalyzer needs to be sent in for calibration every 6 to 12 months to maintain accuracy, depending on how frequently you use it, but this is true of virtually all breathalyzers so we can’t really count it against the Trace.
The best on a budget
Don’t be fooled by the low price — the AlcoHAWK offers accuracy on a budget.
Pros: Fairly high accuracy, dramatically lower price
Cons: Takes a minute to warm up, less precise, requires calibration for best results
Proof that price doesn’t always reflect quality, the AlcoHAWK is a fraction of the cost of competing products but, based on my testing, delivers similar accuracy and reliability as the professional-grade breathalyzers I tried. If you’re interested in having a breathalyzer on hand for the random afternoon wine tasting or dinner party, this is the one to get.
It does have a few small cons: The device takes a minute to warm up between tests which some might find mildly annoying if you’re testing multiple people. Also, the results displayed on its red LED screen are rounded up to the second decimal place, so your reading won’t be as exact as on other machines. But you don’t need a third decimal place to determine if you’re sober enough to drive or not. And we love that it rounds up instead of down, erring on the side of caution.
The best high-accuracy
The BACtrack S80 offers “police-grade accuracy” and speedy readings if you’re testing several people.
Pros: Precise and reliable readings
Cons: Higher cost, requires recalibration
BACtrack describes this model — its most expensive — as having “police-grade accuracy,” and all sources seem to agree. The S80 has received glowing reviews from customers and publications, and it proved its reliability and accuracy during our own tests as well.
If you’re using a breathalyzer as a parent or school administrator, this is the one you should invest in for the sake of being as fair as possible. Plus, it’s quick: The device warms up in under 15 seconds and gives you your reading within 3 seconds, which can be helpful if you’re testing several people.
The best high-tech
The BACtrack Mobile is small, connects to your phone via Bluetooth, and provides an estimate of how long till your BAC will be 0.00%.
Pros: Compact, accurate, estimates how soon you’ll be sober, easy to connect to phone, rechargable
Cons: Estimate doesn’t take personal factors into account, requires a smartphone
Welcome to the 21st century: The BACtrack Mobile connects to your smartphone with Bluetooth, so it automatically logs your results, which is useful for those looking to monitor their alcohol consumption habits over time. The connection is easy and intuitive to set up and use, and the device is rechargeable so you don’t have to worry about batteries.
This gadget doesn’t have a display, so you do need the app to use it and see your results. If you don’t have a smartphone or don’t want to rely on one, this device is not the one for you. Note that also means if your phone is dead, you can’t use the breathalyzer.
Based on our tests, this device is also highly accurate and comparable to other BACtrack models. And the Mobile is considerably smaller than most of the other breathalyzers on this list, which can be convenient for slipping into a purse or pocket.
Using the app also provides you with another piece of information: your “ZeroLine,” which is an estimate of how soon your BAC will return to 0.00%. This can be super useful for planning the rest of your night and determining whether to drive or call a car. However, it should be noted that people process alcohol at dramatically different rates, based on their size, what they’ve eaten that day, and many other individual factors, so while the ZeroLine can provide you with a general timeline, you definitely want to test your BAC again before driving.
Conveniently, the C6 is designed as a keychain, so you’ll always have it on-hand when you’re wondering if you’re ready to leave a dinner party or should hang out for a while longer. Even smaller than the BACtrack Mobile, the C6 also estimates your ZeroLine to tell you how long till you’re likely at 0.00%.
What’s more, it has the ability to connect to your phone in order to store your reading, too. However, on this model, this feature is optional — if your phone is dead or you just don’t want to use it, the keychain breathalyzer functions on its own, displaying your BAC reading on its screen.
Also convenient is the fact that the C6 warms up quickly, in just about five seconds. And being one of the cheaper products we tested, it’s good value for the money. The trade-off is that the C6 isn’t quite as accurate as the more professional devices, but the difference is marginal and unlikely to change anything in practice.
Our testing methodology
I personally tested each device on this list to get an idea of what it’s like to use and to judge its accuracy. I drank exactly one standard drink (5 oz of wine) then after 30 minutes measured my BAC on each device and noted each reading. I measured again another 30 minutes later. Then, I repeated the whole process the next day (to make sure we didn’t have any flukes).
I then evaluated the data to see if any outlier readings were statistically significant. The products we deemed most accurate and reliable were those with the fewest anomalous readings and most consistency with other devices.
Note: Despite drinking the same, standardized amount for Test 1 and Test 2, my BAC reading was different between the days. This could be from a variety of factors, like what I ate and how long beforehand. What’s important is comparing Test 1’s tests among the different breathalyzer, and seeing if those discrepancies were repeated with the same brand on Test 2.
What to look for when buying a breathalyzer
There are only a handful of companies that make breathalyzers for the general public (which is why we include multiple devices by BACtrack) but even so, the products on the market have some significant differences. When buying a personal breathalyzer, consider:
Price: The cheapest product we tried was about $40 and the most expensive $131. Generally, the more expensive breathalyzers do tend to be more accurate and reliable, but you don’t need the same level of detail for recreational use as, say, a police officer would. If your reading is at all borderline or uncertain, you can always just wait a little longer and test yourself again later.
Accuracy and reliability: Virtually all major breathalyzer manufacturers claim “professional” or “police-grade” accuracy, so it can be difficult to determine which devices actually deliver on that claim. Since accuracy is crucial in staying safe behind the wheel, we conducted trials to test the accuracy of each device so that we can tell you which ones live up to their price tag. And we found price does not denote reliability.
Result readability: Some breathalyzers will display your BAC right on the device, while others have an optional or mandatory Bluetooth smartphone connection. The latter can be useful if you want to store your results in a log. But if you don’t have or don’t want to use a smartphone, skip this feature and be sure to get a standalone device.
Calibration and charging: Most breathalyzers need to be sent back to the manufacturer for calibration after 6-12 months in order for the device to continue to read BAC levels accurately. If you’d rather replace the sensor yourself, pick a model for which that’s possible. Also, note what kind of batteries the device takes and if it’s rechargeable or not.
What else we considered
What we don’t recommend
AlcoMate Premium AL7000 Professional Breathalyzer ($131): The AlcoMate, like the other devices on this list, is slim and simple to use; however we found its accuracy a bit questionable, especially considering the price. Instead of sending it back to the manufacturer for calibration, however, you can replace the sensor yourself, which may be appealing for some.
Do personal breathalyzers really work?
First, it’s worth acknowledging that breathalyzers are fallible and results can be affected by operator error (aka you) as well as technical issues. This is partially why breathalyzer BAC readings, on their own, are considered inadmissible trial evidence in some states. But high readings from a personal device should never be shrugged off as a false positive — if there’s any indication that you’re not sober, don’t get behind the wheel.
How do you use a breathalyzer?
Timing matters, a lot. The manufacturer’s instructions for all the products we tested say to wait about 20 minutes after eating and drinking to use the breathalyzer since it takes time for alcohol to be absorbed into a person’s system after consumption. But because people’s bodies metabolize alcohol at different rates, measuring at 20 minutes isn’t always going to produce the most accurate results. Depending on your physiology, what else you’ve had to eat or drink, and timing, among other factors, your BAC could very well keep increasing even after a 20-minute wait.
“I can’t give you a fixed number [of how long after a drink to measure], because depending on how much you drank, your alcohol content is going to keep going up,” Sovndal said. “If I drink 5 beers and 2 tequila shots and then measure it, I could still be on the uprise. It might not flatten out for another hour.”
To be safe, measure your levels after 30 minutes and then again after 60. If your BAC is higher at the second reading, wait another 30 minutes before taking another reading.
Do breathalyzers work for everyone?
Certain groups of people are more likely to blow false positives, namely diabetics and those on low-calorie or ketogenic diets, as the presence of ketones in one’s breath will interfere with the reading.
In addition to research, for this article we spoke with Dr. Shannon Sovndal, MD, FACEPS, who is a board-certified doctor in emergency medicine and emergency medical services (EMS) in Boulder, CO. He is a fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians and has worked extensively in pre-hospital medicine, the fire service, and tactical medicine. He is currently the medical director for multiple EMS agencies and is the author of three books including his most recent “Fragile.”
Don’t think of roadside emergency kits as “just in case” purchases; if you are ever in a situation where you’d need them, they’re invaluable. When my car broke down on the side of the road during torrential rain that kit was essential. It had everything I needed, including a poncho, reflective triangle, and roadside flares. And, the kit’s jumper cables were a plus; I’ve used them numerous times to help friends remedy their cars’ dead batteries.
We’ve identified the best roadside emergency kits to help ensure you’re well prepared. Our selections are based on a number of factors: the items contained in the kits, the quality of them, any valuable items that are missing, and the kits’ price points. Many of these bundles include items that the National Safety Council, Ready, and the American Automobile Association recommend in a roadside emergency kit, too.
What’s more, two of our picks include a first-aid kit (one of our 14 essential winter car items). They also make excellent gifts for new drivers, or for anyone who has a vehicle but doesn’t yet own one.
Here are the best roadside emergency car kits of 2021
Pros: 110 pieces with a 64-piece first aid kit, items to get you back on the road
Cons: The jumper cables may be a bit flimsy
The Roadside Emergency Assistance Kit contains 110 practical supplies you’ll likely use, like a heavy-duty tow strap, a flashlight, and a tire pressure gauge. It also includes a few items you’re less likely to need — a seat belt cutter, an emergency blanket, a windshield breaker — but that are definitely worth having, if only for the peace of mind.
The comprehensive, 64-piece first aid kit is tucked inside the larger canvas duffle bag, and includes items like arm slings, medical tape, gauze, alcohol pads, and an assortment of bandages.
Other helpful supplies you’ll find: a magnesium fire starter, a roadside warning sign, and an 11-in-one multi-tool.
Though the included jumper cables may be a bit flimsy, it’s better than having none if you find yourself with a dead battery.
Pros: Warming supplies, 45-piece first aid kit, shovel
Cons: Battery-powered flashlight would be better if replaced by a light with a hand crank, the kit would benefit from some emergency visibility supplies
Warmth will become a real concern in the event that you can’t turn your vehicle on or have limited gas, and the Lifeline First Aid AAA Winter Safety Kit is designed for these circumstances. Some of its 66 resources include warmth accessories such as tea candles, a fleece set of gloves, a scarf and hat combo, an emergency blanket, and hand-warmer packets.
Additional supplies include a folding shovel, LED flashlight, batteries, emergency whistle, and ice scraper. There’s a 45-piece first aid kit, too, which easily stores everything underneath your seat in a compact bag.
The true value of this kit is found in its warming items, which aren’t offered by many other kits. If you live in an area that receives harsh winter weather, this kit is well worth the investment. Pair this kit with some visibility essentials, like road flares, and you’ll have a well-rounded emergency supply collection for winter weather.
Pros: Higher quality, heavy-duty visibility items, easy to use, compact storage fits under a seat
Cons: Should be paired with another kit for a more complete supply of emergency items
Many emergency kits fall short on quality, high-visibility products, but the Always Prepared Roadside Visibility Kit isn’t one of them. It focuses entirely on making you visible to other drivers, essential for safety if your vehicle breaks down on the side of the road at night. Increased visibility can potentially keep other drivers from hitting you or your car, too.
This kit contains everything you need to maximize your safety during a breakdown, including two reflective triangles that fold up for compact storage and can be displayed to draw attention to your vehicle. Another feature is a flashing LED emergency light, along with one neon safety vest, to help keep you safe and visible.
All of these items fit neatly inside a storage bag that can be tucked underneath a seat or placed in your trunk. Because it doesn’t contain other essential items, it’s best paired with another roadside emergency kit.
Some people think that a full tank of gas and keys are the only things needed to drive a car. Sure, you can sometimes get away with being underprepared, but not during the winter. Factors like snow, ice, and freezing temperatures make winter driving a lot more demanding than normal.
You should always be prepared for typical accidents that could potentially happen on the road at any time, but during the winter we’re also tasked with shoveling snow, scraping ice from our windows, making sure our tires have good traction, maintaining safe tire pressure, and more.
Whether you’re taking a spirited drive for fun or traveling from point A to point B, there a few things that everyone should keep in their car at all times during the winter.
No matter what year, make, or model your car is, it should come with basics like a tire iron and jack, but those two items alone won’t cut it. If you end up with a dead battery or a car that’s stuck in the snow, you’ll want to have a few other things on hand.
It goes without saying that shovels are useful during the winter, but having one specifically dedicated to your car is a wise move. If you’ve ever had to dig your car out after a snowstorm or gotten stuck along a snow-covered road, you know how convenient it is to keep one in your trunk.
When choosing a shovel to store in the car, people often resort to a cheap mini shovel for the sake of saving space, but it’s bound to break. Or they opt for a full-size shovel that will take up their entire cargo space for better efficiency.
With a DMOS Collective shovel, you get the best of both worlds. Made in the US using aircraft-grade aluminum alloy, every DMOS shovel features serrated teeth for breaking ice and a collapsible handle for easy storage.
Choose the Alpha Expedition for a full-sized shovel or the Stealth for an even more compact design. You’ll never have to buy another shovel again, and it will fit your trunk perfectly.
A snow and ice scraper is easily the most used tool for drivers during the winter. Keeping one handy will allow you to efficiently clear off your windows and lights before driving. The Snow Angel features an extendable telescopic arm, so it’s easy to store and won’t take up a lot of space when not in use.
A dead battery is one of the most common car issues, so jumper cables are a must-have. Whether you accidentally left your lights on or cold weather drained your battery, this will bring your car back to life. EPAuto uses thick 4-gauge cables for solid and reliable conductivity.
Keeping a flashlight in your car year-round is a good idea, but with less daylight during the winter, it can be especially useful. Sure, your smartphone has a flashlight app on it, but it’s not as useful as a real one. Whether changing a tire or jumping your car, you want something that shines bright and is durable.
The Outlite A100 has a bright light with an adjustable focus and five modes, including a disrupter strobe and SOS function. It’s also waterproof, so you’ll be able to use it in all weather conditions.
Even if you have the right gear, tools, and knowledge to get out of a mishap, freezing cold hands can really keep you from getting the job done. Disposable hand warmers heat up in seconds and last for hours. They can help you keep your hands warm while you’re changing a tire, jumping your battery, or waiting for help to arrive.
Running out of gas can be a major headache at any time of the year, but it’s definitely worse in the winter. You don’t want to store fuel in your trunk, but keeping a small gas container in your car can save you from a tow. Just walk or take a cab to the nearest gas station and fill this can. With a capacity of just over two gallons, it will hold enough gas to get you to a gas station where you can refill your tank.
You probably already own a battery pack for keeping your electronics charged on-the-go, but having one that’s always in your car is important. It can be the difference between making a quick call for help or being stranded for hours. The NOCO Boost Plus GB40 acts as a charger flash, LED flashlight, and even has a plug-in to jumpstart your car.
If your tires don’t have good tread, you absolutely want to replace them before winter comes. Driving in wet, snowy, or icy conditions with bald tires is extremely dangerous and shouldn’t be done. Go for a quality set of all-season tires, or opt for a set of snow tires to run on your car during the winter months. In addition to the tires on your car, it’s important to keep a spare that’s in solid condition.
Whether your tires are brand new or used, cold weather can cause a loss of tire pressure. Since keeping the correct tire pressure is important to driving safely, an air compressor is a convenient way to maintain good tire pressure at all times. The P.I. Auto Store Air Compressor plugs right into your car’s 12-volt power outlet and features a gauge to let you know you’ve reached the correct PSI.
You never know when you’ll need a first aid kit, so keeping a small one in your car is always smart. The Swiss Safe 2-in-1 is a packable case that’s easy to store or carry. It includes a 120-piece kit and a smaller bonus 32-piece kit.
Even if you’re not a mechanic, having a basic tool kit can save the day when simple fixes need to be done. The Apollo 56-Piece kit includes everything you’ll need for basic repairs — a wrench, sockets, Allen keys, pliers, a screwdriver, zip ties, and more.
Have you ever been stuck in the snow and your tires just keep spinning and spinning, no matter how much gas you give it? Even with new tires, certain cars can still lose traction, but luckily there’s a solution: cat litter. Simply spread the litter underneath the tires lacking traction, and you’ll be able to drive out of the slippery snow and ice.
Being stranded isn’t fun at any time of year, but during the winter, it’s more than an inconvenience. Going from driving in a warm car with heat to breaking down and losing power is never a good feeling — and can even be dangerous.
In the event that you do have to tough it out inside your car for a few hours or even overnight, you’re going to need a blanket to stay warm. You don’t need a full comforter set, but a fleece blanket provides warmth and won’t take up too much trunk space.