What Makes Highway 17 the Most Dangerous Highway In California?

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Content provided by legal writers

Getting behind the wheel means putting yourself at risk of an accident. Unfortunately, most people can’t avoid it because it may be the only means of getting around. 

For the most part, safety on the road depends on the driver; however, some circumstances are out of the driver’s control, such as other road users or the weather. Also, some roads pose more risks than others, with Highway 17 being among the most dangerous roads in California. 

Highway 17 Connects San Jose to Santa Cruz

Highway 17, also known as SR 17, is a state highway connecting San Jose to Santa Cruz, CA. This road carries substantial vacationer and commuter traffic through Santa Cruz coastal mountains daily and is one of the deadliest roads in America. 

If you are planning to get on this road in the future, this guide on the dangers of Highway 17 can help you prepare for what you are likely to encounter and so take necessary precautions.

Common Dangers of Highway 17

Narrow Lanes 

Highway 17 was built in the 1930s. While its designers were forward-looking in terms of traffic volumes, they may not have anticipated the current traffic volumes on the road. 

By today’s standards, the lanes are dangerously tight, making it pretty challenging for drivers to navigate without careening off the media divider and running into oncoming traffic, especially when navigating bends along the road. 

Sharp Bends and Blind Curves

Driving on a narrow road is a challenge; add to it that the road has some sharp corners that make navigating even more challenging. With the road being in a mountainous region, most sharp bends on the road are blind curves meaning that the driver will be navigating a corner with an obstructed view of what is ahead of them. 

You cannot change the condition of the road. But you can drive defensively when approaching bends such as the Laurel Curve, which is particularly dangerous to avoid getting into an accident.

Distracted Driving

Highway 17 snakes through a mountainous coastal region with some pretty scenic views. For drivers on the highway for the first time, the scenic views can present quite a distraction. 

Scenic views are not the only types of distractions on this road. Like other busy roads, phone usage and fiddling with controls in the car also present a significant risk on the road. Due to the other factors that make this highway relatively more dangerous than other roads, it is important to put all the attention on the road. 

Poor Weather

California is among the states with the best weather all year round. Still, the Santa Cruz Mountains, which reach an elevation of 562 meters above sea level, receive substantial amounts of rainfall from time to time. 

In heavy rainfall, the steep sections of the road can get quite slippery and potentially result in drivers losing control of the vehicle and getting into an accident. 

While it rarely snows in California, higher elevations in Santa Cruz Mountains can have snow occasionally, increasing the road’s slipperiness. Driving at a speed relatively lower than the posted limit is advisable if you are driving in bad weather. 

Wild Animals

It is not uncommon to have animals such as mountain deer, wild turkeys, and mountain lions jumping onto the road out of nowhere. Hitting such animals at high speeds can mean sustaining substantial damage to your vehicle and severe injuries. 

At other times, a driver is forced to swerve to avoid hitting the animals, which can cause the vehicle to roll, hit other obstacles, or get in the way of other vehicles. The safe thing to do in the mountainous region is to drive with the expectation that anything can happen and keep your guard up.


This content is provided by an independent source for informational purposes only and does not contain legal advice. Consult an attorney or financial advisor when making decisions. This information is provided by legal writers and does not reflect the views or opinions of The Daily Sundial editorial staff.