It would be great if driving was nothing but smooth, winding roads with gorgeous scenery and no other cars on the road. Just you and a Miata with the top down, enjoying your life and completely free of stress. Sadly, that’s not the reality of most driving that we do these days, and sometimes the stress gets pretty bad. On Tuesday, we asked you what your most stressful driving experiences had been, and today we’re highlighting some of your answers. Time to see what you said.
Stressful and great at the same time. Rural Ireland.
Roads were generally 1.5 car widths wide, which works surprisingly well on the straights (pictured), “Just focus ahead and you’ll be fine”.
However, along a curving cliff face (not pictured for obvious reasons) with no guardrail...
I didn’t drive when I was in Ireland, but I still saw the roads. It’s tight. Not having a guardrail while you’re driving along a cliff sounds terrible.
Suggested by: Cityman
Some years ago, Mazda decided it was a good idea to send journalists on a road trip from Bangkok to Hanoi, via Laos. Now driving in Thailand and Laos was mostly fine, but if you’ve never driven in Vietnam before, hoo boy. Let’s just say it’s not for the faint-hearted.
Once we crossed the Laos border into Vietnam, we found ourselves heading down this very narrow mountain pass, with sharp drops on the side, and random trucks appearing out of nowhere coming in the other direction, making progress a truly ass-clenching exercise. It was raining too, to compound matters, and I found out much later on that the road was once featured on a BBC series called “World’s Most Dangerous Roads”. Go figure.
But we were not done! Out of the rural areas and into the city, and it was a whole other scene of terror. You’re faced with swarms of motorbikes coming at you in every possible direction, none of whom gives two hoots about your fast approaching 2-tonne metal machine. Trying to avoid flattening some poor Vietnamese bloke on a bike required a level of heightened alertness that I’ve never experienced before, or since.
I would not drive in Vietnam again, not even if you pay me.
The traffic in Vietnam sure is something else, isn’t it? Although, I actually kind of enjoyed riding a motorcycle there. Was it chaotic? Yes. But was it an adventure? Absolutely. Maybe I just have a death wish.
Suggested by: Ben C
Off-Roading a Kia Rio
I think I’ve related this story here on Jalopnik before, but it fits this category best, so here goes...
My wife and I were on a ten-day trip to Israel, our first trip outside of the U.S. and we were trying to cram as much of the country into ten days as possible on a budget. When we left Jerusalem, we rented a Kia Rio and went up north to do some hiking. We parked the Kia at the beginning of the hike, which was supposed to be a loop, and went for it.
Halfway into the hike, we were low on water and the trail markers got more and more confusing. We ran into a Jeep packed with four IDF soldiers who gave us a bit of water, and after a little talking back and forth, we swallowed our pride and asked for help getting back to the car.
This is where things kind of fell apart... Since the Jeep only held four, the soldiers decided it would be best if they took me back to the car while one of them waited with my wife. So far, so good (they were good people - kids, frankly). They brought me to the Kia, and I turned around and let them know I needed to follow them back because I didn’t know the way we came. Unfortunately, none of the soldiers in the Jeep spoke English.
Instead of going back the way they came, they drove the Jeep off-road, straight down the mountain we had been hiking. I was left with the choice of trying to guess my way back to my wife or follow the Jeep off-road... in the Kia Rio.
I took a deep breath, then started driving the rental Kia down the mountain - trying to balance a safe speed that would bash the undercarriage, but still fast enough that I wouldn’t lose the Jeep. I managed to keep the wheels on the dirt, occasionally hearing a rock or two bonk the floor beneath me.
I lost the Jeep. By the time I realized how dumb it was to drive down the mountain, I was too far down to try and drive back up. I had to keep going, not sure where I would come out. Soon, I came to a more defined vehicle trail, so I decided to follow wherever the trail became more like a road.
Miraculously, I came out in a place I recognized, right near where the soldiers had been staying with my wife. They were absolutely astonished that I drove that trail in a Kia. The car was fine. I was a wreck. Definitely the most stressful drive ever - it didn’t help that the Kia’s charging port didn’t work and my Israeli cell phone was out of charge.
Huge sigh of relief when I returned that Kia to the rental car place and they didn’t see anything wrong with it, btw.
How you were able to return your rental car without paying a massive repair bill, I don’t fully understand. Then again, I also don’t understand how a Kia Rio survived being driven down a mountain.
Suggested by: Sid Bridge
Ice in a Mustang Cobra
Christmas Eve, 2009. Driving from Houston to Tulsa. The forecast is iffy on the timing, but there’s a big winter front coming and it’s probably going to ice in Oklahoma.
Choice of car was a problem - my F350's tires were well past their sell-by date and did not have adequate tread depth, while the ‘99 Mustang Cobra (with autocross-prepped suspension) was on fresh street tires. High-performance summer street tires, but fresh. Decision was made to take the Cobra with the goal of getting ahead of the front, and once I was at my folks’ place, whatever, I was there.
I was going okay until a Texas DPS trooper, who had earlier been unable to get a radar lock on me as I crested a hill on TX-19 a good 20mph+ over the speed limit (which was 75 mph) because I executed a huge delta-V move as soon as the V1 screamed, pulled out behind me after my gas stop in Sulfur Springs.
Kept my cool, just cruised along, as he went from behind to passing me on the left, to being in front of me, then pulled onto the shoulder. “If he pulls out behind me, I’m screwed”. He pulled out behind me and lit me up. Turn signal on, hand in the air, pull over, shut the car off, window down, keys on the dash, hands on the top of the wheel.
He walks up, sees a 40-something in a U Tulsa sweatshirt, and... the bright red 3" Simpson harness I was wearing instead of the stock seatbelt (the car has a racing seat), and his face fell. Never even asked me for ID. He’d pulled me over for a seatbelt violation and lost his primary enforcement reason for stopping me. After a brief conversation about my travels, he asked about my front license plate - I showed him where it was Velcroed to the passenger sun visor, and he sent me on my way.
And then radioed another trooper to tail me with radar blazing for the next 20 miles, all the way to Paris.
ANYWAY, that wasn’t the stressful part. I got to Henryetta, OK, normally about an hour from the folks’, and as I pulled away from the last stoplight on the nort end of town, I heard the tell-tale “ping-ping-ping” of sleet pellets on the car. At about 60 mph in 5th gear, I tested the traction by goosing the gas pedal. The traction control light lit up on the instrument panel and the computer cut 3 cylinders.
Right. Ice. Backed it down to about 30 mph. As I went through first Okmulgee and then Glenpool, I was starting out from the stoplights in 2nd and upshifting directly to 5th as soon as the car was moving. Lugged the hell out of the engine, but it worked.
The car was on ice skates. Dull ones. The slightest breeze would move it around in the lane. 30 mph felt like I was pushing my luck. Meanwhile, Tahoes and the like with TX tags are blasting past me at 70 and giving me dirty looks. That I’d later pass more than half of them after they’d found one of the ditches was small consolation. The brain was on full alert the whole time, no relaxing, no distractions, just regretting so many decisions I’d made earlier with a very little bit of background processing while everything else was focused on maintaining some semblance of control.
Two and a half hours after first hitting the ice, I made it to the folks’. Dad opened the garage door, I pulled in, turned the car off, he closed the door, and I sat there for a good 10 minutes trying to unkink my back muscles enough to be able to lever myself out of the seat.
And then didn’t leave the house for 3 days except to shovel the driveway.
No damage to the car. No permanent damage to me. Just something I never want to do again. I keep the shoes on my trucks up to code from then on so the Cobra can stay in the garage when things get stupid weather-wise. And in Houston, on those rare occasions we get ice, I just don’t leave the house.
Spending two-and-a-half hours driving on ice is not my idea of fun, but doing it in a Mustang Cobra on high-performance summer tires? That sounds like hell. But sometimes, you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do.
Suggested by: autojim
Changing Chains on the Side of the Road
Driving an ‘85 C class RV on a Ford Econoline dually van chassis following the blizzard of ‘03-04 in Colorado on the Thursday night they opened I-70 to let trucks through after being closed for 3-4 days. We were stuck on the fun side of the continental divide, with intent, and snowboarded Copper Mountain for days in some of the best conditions ever.. But were eager to get back to our friend’s place so we could park and plug in back in Empire. We were a bit foolish to think that if the highway opened we would be able to even get to our friend’s place, but we also had jobs in Idaho Springs and whenever the pizza place opened back up we needed to be there so once word got out that they were opening I-70 finally, we double checked the chains on the back and headed up with the rest of the pile of people that had been stuck in Summit County for days. I should mention that the RV was bought by my good friend at the time and myself as a cheap living situation that could park at any ski resort we wanted on any weekday, very ideal!
Anyways, they probably should have waited longer to open the highway, while it was an ok paced snowy crawl up the hill, once we got on the other side of the Eisenhower tunnel it was about a foot thick of pure ice plowed down to the ice with 8 foot walls of snow on either side. This is when we realize that chains on all 4 tires were absolutely necessary but not available so we had to pull over in a spot that wasn’t a spot or large enough for the RV, then very quickly and clumsily get a chain set from one of the rear tires up to one of the front tires so that every tap of the brakes didn’t send us sliding towards an ice wall or a semi. This maneuver was done while we traded turns holding the flashlight and watching traffic creep by as the other wrangled the chains, other cars doing the same thing with locking up the fronts and sliding towards us then letting off the brakes and straightening out again.. this process felt like forever. Nobody hit us and we made it as far as Georgetown where we ended up staying with another friend for 3 more days as the state cleared out of snow. It was nuts, they hadn’t got to the avalanche that crossed the creekbed and went all the way up to the base of the road itself on the other side, it cut power to Loveland for over a week if I remember correctly, they were running on generator power for a while.
The snow was so deep we were jumping headfirst off the third story balcony railing at the apartments in Georgetown consequence free, you just had to make sure you didn’t hit someone elses bomb hole.
I’m happy to hear you ended up having fun because, after all that stress, you absolutely deserved it. Knowing there wasn’t much you could do if someone plowed into you had to be terrifying.
Suggested by: Markoff8585
Dodging Deer in a Snowstorm
Back in 2014 a buddy and I stopped in Crested Butte for some snowboarding. Woke up to 8" of fresh powder in Crested Butte this morning. Shredded every bit of it we could find until the legs gave out. Stopped into town for a kick ass burrito and grabbed to go tamales, then hit the road for Denver.
It was a beautiful day for a drive, bright and sunny. My buddy was driving and we were about 30 mins out of Gunnison when we came over a ridge and suddenly there was a deer in the middle of the road. Brakes were slammed, deer was hit, airbags were deployed. Car was f’ed. Humans were okay.
After quite an ordeal - ride to only garage in nearest town, only garage in town not really interested in helping and hitching a ride with a family back to Gunnison - we rented a car at the airport and headed to Denver. Again.
This time I was driving since buddy was shellshocked from the deer hit, it was pitch black, a snowstorm had kicked up and we were in a FWD rental car.
This was the second time I’ve been in a car hitting deer, so I was on edge. The family who kindly gave us a lift pointed out all the place where deer get on the road, so that didn’t help.
The 4 hour drive was nerve wracking as hell. Keeping an eye out for deer, navigating a snow storm and several passes in the middle of night, all while exhausted from a full day. That sucked.
We finally made it home and realized we forgot the tamales in the car. Damn.
Driving a rental car is bad enough. Add in a snowstorm and suicidal deer? That’s going to be rough. But leaving the tamales in the car really pushes this one over the edge. After all that, some tamales would have really hit the spot.
Suggested by: Ted LaDue
Just Don’t Hit the Land Mines
I got my license when I was 19. A bit of a late-bloomer in that respect.
Shortly after, I was deployed to the Balkans for Operations Joint Endeavor/Guard. I was a data communications specialist (74C) in a transportation unit. Naturally, the commander decided I was the “IT guy”, and made me his driver. I told him that I’d been driving for less than a year. He didn’t care.
So we spend a couple of weeks learning to probe for landmines in Germany on our way to Croatia. They told us that locals would “helpfully” move live mines to the roadside ditch. They demonstrated a tank mine launching a truck into the air. Really instilled fear of landmines.
I mostly drove a HMMWV (Humvee) over there, which is probably the widest passenger vehicle ever made. For some reason that was never explained, only MPs got floor armor. (In fact, they were the only ones who got anything better than vinyl-sided vehicles.)
The last element in this formula for puckerage, is that the roads in that part of the world are mostly one lane in each direction. The solution for overtaking is that the vehicle being overtaken shifts over until their passenger wheels are on the “shoulder” (in the ditch), and the oncoming vehicles do the same, and the passing vehicle slips through the middle.
Remember where we were told to be most on guard for landmines? That is stress.
There are stressful driving situations, and then there are situations that are stressful because you could easily hit a land mine. Did you have any hair on your head after that? Mine would have probably all fallen out.
Suggested by: phutnick
Northern Ireland During the Troubles
Back in the eighties the company I worked for sent me to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Smack in the worst part of The Troubles. The people were lovely, the ones not dressed in green carrying weapons anyway, but driving through those checkpoints and wondering which vehicle or store would explode as I drove by was stressful. More a sort of geopolitical stress than a direct driving stress, but stress nonetheless.
Hey, just because the driving itself isn’t stressful doesn’t mean the drive itself is also stress-free. Geopolitical stress totally counts. Especially if potential explosions are involved.
Suggested by: skeffles
1,000 Miles in 24 Hours
My first and only Iron Butt Saddle sore 1000. I have been a long time follower of the Iron Butt Association. I always wanted to do the saddlesore 1000. Which is 1000 miles in 24 hours. I wanted to see the former owner of the bike (hes the one who told me about the IBA) So I left at 4 in the morning on a saturday, rode through the mountains of PA, to the flats of Ohio to Metro Detroit. The ride out was fine it was the ride back to PA. With sunset around 8 i still had a few hours of darkness on I80. I had to deal with prolonged wind, deer alive and dead, and truckers. At 2:00a sunday I made it home to PA in one piece. A few months later I got this swag.
I’ve ridden from Athens, GA to Palm Beach, FL before, and that was bad enough. 1,000 miles sounds insane. The good kind of insane, but insane nonetheless. Hopefully, your back was OK after all that riding.
Suggested by: Scott the Stagehand
Five years ago, when I was still prone to making stupid decisions (and to finding adrenaline rushes) I took my previous Subaru - this bone-stock 2018 XT - up a road called South Colony Lakes to get to a trailhead so I could attempt to climb a 14er called Crestone Peak. It’s a road rated “difficult 4wd”. There were multiple times that my friend had to get out and spot me to make sure a really big rock didn’t pierce anything important under the car, and other rocks sent horrific scraping noises into the cabin pretty much the entire time. There were also a few times where I was teeter-tottering on two wheels.
About 15 minutes into the drive I realized that it would have been quicker to just walk, but there was really no place to turn around, and I was praying that someone wasn’t coming down the road so I’d have to back up. It took us about an hour to go 3 miles, and the Jeep bros gave us strange looks as we pulled in.
We made it back to Denver in one piece, but it was a hair-raising, butthole clenching experience that I never want to have again. I was damn proud of that car afterwards, though.
I’m happy to hear I’m not the only one who’s made poor off-roading decisions in a Subaru. But at least you made it and gained a little more respect for your faithful Subaru. They’re shockingly capable off-roaders.
Suggested by: jonRob5189
First time doing truly long distance driving and coming across a wind system rushing down mountainside so hard that it created a massive wall of vapor across an entire lake. This is after going through a low visibility sand storm. Stopped at the roadside along another car, barely held the door from flying off, saw a woman struggle come out of the other car with her long braid IMMEDIATELY undoing itself the moment she opened the door. Gust events in the region apparently can go up to 100+mph, perpendicular to the roads that cars drive on.
We got plenty of snow-driving stories, but sand storms are also incredibly dangerous. And 100-mph winds take that danger to a completely different level. Hopefully, you weren’t driving a Jeep Wrangler.
Suggested by: Pessimippopotamus
Driving with Mom
20 years of being a daily taxi for a mother who, at least according to the amount of times she critiqued my driving, was herself the world’s greatest driver. Despite the fact that the last time she’d driven a car, she was 17 and put a Ford Pinto into a creek upside down.
I miss you, Mom, but I do not miss the side-seat driving.
Not every stressful driving situation has to involve weather, terrain or other drivers. Sometimes the stress comes from inside the cabin. Also, we all now need to hear that story about your mom flipping a Pinto into a creek.
Suggested by: dbeach84
Mother-in-Law in Queens
Coming back from Manhattan to eastern Queens in the passenger seat of my mother-in-law’s car. I do rope access on skyscrapers for my job, but nothing is as scary as that.
Moms can be stressful, but so can your partner’s mom. Especially if she’s a crazy enough driver to scare someone who hangs off skyscrapers all day. That must have been something else.
Suggested by: mr.choppers
Flying Counts, Too
Not a car but I was “driving”. I was the pilot of a large military jet flying over the Atlantic Ocean and the windshield cracked right in front of me. I’ve never seen the cockpit empty of people so fast. We didn’t lose pressurization but I did wear an oxygen mask the rest of the flight. We ended up landing safely.
Then there was the time a radio caught fire as we were about to enter US airspace. One of our crew found the box, put the fire out, and unplugged it. We were *ALMOST* at the point where fighters would scramble to intercept us but we managed to switch to a backup radio and let ATC know who we were.
Oh, or the time I had to land the plane with the guts of a bird splattered across the windshield.
Technically, you broke the rules here, but we’ll allow it. A plane is basically a sky car. Or, I guess, an air bus. Except your windshield didn’t have wipers.
Suggested by: The Alliest
Westfjords, Iceland in a rental Hyundai Santa Fe.
I drove over a snow-covered mountain pass from Reykjavik into the small town of Holmavik, where we stopped at the - this is real - Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft
We started talking to the man that ran the place, and he ominously told us that there is another mountain pass between here and our destination, and another blizzard is coming so we should quickly be on our way. What followed was a complete whiteout with only the occasional small poles marking the road.
The return trip was not much better; the snow had been falling nonstop overnight so we monitored the road conditions website to try to determine when the snow plow had gone through the pass, and made a run for it when the forecast said the snow would ease. The only other cars we encountered were lifted 4x4s on off-road tires, and one of those had gone off the road and gotten stuck. We eventually stumbled back into the museum in Holmavik to thank the man and let him know we made it, only to be met with a warning - “there is another blizzard coming, so you need to go now so you can make it over the pass between here and Reykjavik...”
There’s bad snow, and then there’s a total whiteout. And you were in a rental Hyundai Santa Fe? I’m starting to think you did something wrong at the witchcraft and sorcery museum.
Suggested by: Nakam