The world's most dangerous roads, and other driving facts

BY Stephanie Gray

27th Mar 2024 Motoring

4 min read

The world's most dangerous roads, and other driving facts
Pop down the hood and cruise through the world of driving, from the future of EVs and self-driving cars to which countries drive on the left side of the road

1. The man who invented the automobile (and the wife who stole his thunder)

The invention of the first automobile is most often credited to German engineer Karl Benz (co-founder of luxury brand Mercedes-Benz), who filed a patent for his three-wheeled, gas-powered Motorwagen in 1886.
But it was his wife, Bertha, who made the world’s first long-distance drive in an automobile. She took the Motorwagen without her husband’s knowledge and drove it 96 kilometres, from Mannheim to Pforzheim, in about 13 hours. 

2. Driving on the left or right? An international debate

Today, roughly 70 per cent of countries drive on the right, with notable exceptions being Australia, India, Japan and the United Kingdom.
Ancient Romans are believed to have driven their chariots on the left-hand side of the road so that they could use their right hands to wield a weapon, but there were no laws enforcing one way or the other.
It wasn’t until wagon transport increased in the late 1700s that countries began to pick a side. France ordered traffic to keep to the right, while Britain picked the left, and the laws trickled down to their respective territories and colonies.
But by the 1920s, Canada adopted driving on the right to facilitate traffic to and from the United States. 

3. Life on the road

Four out of five Canadians commute to work, and the majority travel by car. The average commute is about 24.5 minutes. Most people will spend roughly 4.3 years of their life in a vehicle, including 54 hours per year in gridlock.

4. Are EVs the future?

electric vehicle charging on street
Electric vehicles (EVs) are gaining popularity with drivers wanting to save money on fuel and reduce their carbon footprint. In 2022, ten per cent of all passenger vehicles sold worldwide were EVs, ten times more than five years earlier.
Most EVs can travel 200 to 400 kilometres on a single charge, making them a great option for day-to-day travel.
The federal government plans to mandate that all new cars sold in Canada be zero emission by 2035.

5. Obscure driving laws

Drinking any beverage while driving—including water—is illegal in Cyprus, and in Australia, it’s against the law to stick your hand out the window, even to wave.
In Thailand, it’s illegal to drive shirtless, and in most Scandinavian countries drivers must always have their headlights on, even in daylight.

6. Eye-watering fines

Can you imagine getting a nearly $400,000 speeding ticket? That’s what happened to a 53-year-old Swedish motorist when he was caught driving his Ferrari Testarossa through a village near St Gallen, Switzerland, at 137 kilometres per hour—57 kilometres over the speed limit.
The steep fine was calculated based on previous infractions and the driver’s income, which is standard practice in Switzerland.

7. Germany's need for speed

birds eye view of autobahn in germany
Germany is one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t impose a speed limit on highways.
The average speed on the famed Autobahn clocks in at 142 kilometres per hour. Despite this, the Autobahn is said to be one of the safest highway networks in the world.

8. A century of car radio

We’ve been singing in the car for nearly 95 years. The first car radio was introduced in the 1930s, but at the time it was an expensive add-on that worked solely on AM radio waves. The now-standard AM/FM radio wasn’t invented until 1953.
Since then, our in-vehicle music options have continued to evolve, with the eight-track introduced in the 1960s, cassette players in the 1970s, compact disc (CD) players in the 1980s and the streaming services of today, such as Spotify and Apple Music. 

9. Record-breaking road trips

In 1984, Swiss couple Emil and Liliana Schmid climbed into their bright blue Toyota Land Cruiser and began the world’s longest road trip, which continues to this day.
In 40 years, they’ve travelled more than 741,065 kilometres across 186 countries. Now in their eighties, the couple is currently on the road in Africa and hold the Guinness World Record for the longest driven journey. 

10. Infamous driving hazards

lorry driving by mountain on alaska's dalton highway
Alaska’s Dalton Highway is considered one of the world’s most dangerous roads. The two-lane gravel road stretches 666 kilometres, with only three gas stations along the way and no cellular service.
Drivers often encounter crater-like potholes and turbulent winter weather, including avalanches and snowdrifts.
Other high-risk routes include Bolivia’s single-lane “Death Road,” which clings to the side of a mountain, and Britain’s A537, nicknamed “the widow-maker” due to its deadly sharp turns.

11. The cost of car theft

Some of the most popular car models in Canada are also appealing to thieves. In 2022, the Honda CR-V ranked third in sales and first for stolen vehicles, with 4,117 thefts reported.
A car is stolen every six minutes in Canada, and insurance companies had more than $1 billion in auto-theft claims in 2022.
According to police, cars with a push-to-start ignition are most vulnerable, as criminals can steal the signal these “keys” send out while they’re hanging on your key hook at home using wireless transmitters. 

12. Hands off

In Canada, it’s against the law to use any handheld device behind the wheel, including while being stopped at a traffic light. Doing this could earn you a major fine and demerit points, and possibly even vehicle suspension or prison.
Ontario has one exception to this rule: while waiting in a drive-through line.

13. The wait for self-driving cars

Self-driving cars, or autonomous vehicles (AVs), aren’t a futuristic idea—robot cars are already driving in some US states.
But the technology still has major safety issues, with reports of inappropriate hard braking and hundreds of crashes.
Last November, General Motors suspended operations of Cruise, its driverless car unit, after California’s Department of Motor Vehicles deemed the vehicles a risk to the public.
And in December, Tesla recalled more than two million cars equipped with Autopilot, its driver-assistance program, due to safety concerns.
Meanwhile, Google-­owned Waymo is still operating in Phoenix and San Francisco. 
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