Highway 431 Remains One Of The Deadliest Highways In America
Back in 2016, I wrote a post titled Alabama’s Highway of Death. At the time, travel experts listed Highway 431 across Alabama as one of the deadliest highways in the world. The highway was even labeled as Alabama’s Highway to Hell by al.com.
This highway continues to live-up to its deadly reputation. While improvements have been made, they are still too few. After reading a recently published travel article continuing to highlight the dangers of deadly accidents along Highway 431, I thought I should re-visit and update my past article.
From its start in Meridianville, Highway 431 becomes Memorial Parkway and then Governors’ Drive in Huntsville. These are two of the busiest roadways in our growing city. The highway then travels south all the way to the Dothan area. During this 350+ mile stretch, Highway 431 passes through numerous cities and towns from Guntersville, to Albertville, to Gadsden, to Anniston, and continues southward through Alabama. The highway passes through mountains and rural areas as well. Along the way, Highway 431 often changes from four lanes to two lanes.
In Huntsville, alone, Highway 431 has major intersections with Highway 231, Highway 53, and Highway 72 (University Drive). If you drive anywhere in Huntsville, you likely travel or cross part of Highway 431. I drive this highway on a daily basis from my home to work. If you go south into Guntersville, the highway has major intersections with Highway 79, Highway 69, Highway 227, and Highway 205. Across Alabama, Highway 431 intersects some of the busiest areas of the state. You can read a listing of all major intersections as the highway runs its length HERE.
What Makes Highway 431 So Dangerous?
In my 2016 article, I listed several reasons why Highway 431 is so dangerous. These include:
High speeds on rural stretches of the highway.
Sudden stops in many of the small towns along the route.
Sudden changes in the number of lanes.
Large volumes of vehicles entering and exiting the roadway along its route.
Poorly lit rural stretches of the highway.
What really makes Highway 431 so dangerous is the number of distractions and quick decisions that drivers must make. When any busy roadway contains rapidly changing conditions along its route, drivers are at risk.
What Safety Improvements Were Planned?
When I wrote my prior article in 2016, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) had major plans to four lane additional sections of the highway. In areas of growing traffic volume, this would allow for better travel with fewer stops and starts.
I’ve seen the results of so many deadly accidents along Highway 431 that could have been prevented with additional safety planning. I also drive on Highway 431 daily in the Huntsville area. Several times a month, I drive the highway south from Guntersville to Gadsden for depositions or court. Along this Highway from Meridianville to Anniston, I’ve inspected and investigated more serious car accident scenes than I can recall. Lane additions will help but other safety improvements in traffic control or design are also needed.
Does Highway 431 Continue To Put Drivers At Risk?
Since my last article, some slow changes have been made. But, this highway continues to live up to its nickname. This year, a website dedicated to RV travelers published a new article titled Alabama’s ‘Highway To Hell’ Ranked One Of The Most Dangerous Roads In America. While this new article does note that Alabama has made improvements in the roadway’s safety, it remains one of the deadliest roads in America. According to this article:
Low visibility, dangerous curves, and high speeds contribute to the road’s nickname. In addition, because there are varying lanes as you travel from north to south, there’s plenty of merging.
You might have a two-lane road for ten miles, then a four-lane highway for ten miles, then back to a two-lane road. When the street already has severe curves and low visibility, this merging adds to the dangerous nature of US Route 431.
Alabama’s “Highway to Hell” also cuts through several cities. This reduces speeds abruptly but also mixes highway and local traffic. Someone hurrying to work might weave in and out of local traffic speedily to get back to the highway lanes.
Additionally, there are many people getting on and off this highway, making it crucial for motorists to watch the left and right sides of their vehicles for merging traffic.
As this new article indicates, Highway 431 presents a broad number and variety of dangers all along the same stretch of road. Distractions. Visibility issues. Speed. Changes in lanes and directions. High traffic areas in towns. Drivers must stay aware of lots of conditions and changes from every direction. That is what makes this roadway so dangerous.
How Can We Stay Safe On Highway 431?
Our community leaders from Huntsville to Dothan are impacted by this highway and should advocate for safety improvements. Design improvements. Better traffic control devices. Lane widening. Our leaders can improve the safety of this vital highway. What can we also do to stay safe on this stretch of highway? Here are three basic things you can do to keep safe:
Drive within the speed limit. Along highway 431, you travel through many Alabama cities and towns. In these areas, you face lots of cars entering and exiting the roadway along with lots of other distractions. You also travel through winding and hilly rural areas. Many areas of the highway have lower speed limits for a very important reason — Safety. Your safety and the safety of others. Watch your speed. If you drive too fast, you have little or no time to avoid sudden changes around you.
Avoid distracted driving. With ever-changing conditions along Highway 431, it is essential that you pay attention. If you take your eyes off the road even for a few seconds, this highway could change from 4 lanes to 2. A car could suddenly turn in front of you in one of the towns along your way. I could again describe all the many things that make this highway dangerous (and especially dangerous for distracted drivers).
Avoid Bad Weather (Or Be Extra Careful). Along its route, the highway travels through many small towns. It winds along rural roads. It changes elevations across the hills of Alabama. Rain and freezing conditions are especially dangerous. Avoid driving in these dangerous conditions of low visibility or slippery roads if possible.
Highway 431 continues to be one of the most dangerous roads in America. While some improvements have been made, we need to make many more.