10 Worst Orange County Roadways, Mostly According to OC Weekly Staffers

A welcome sight coming back from LA.
A welcome sight coming back from LA.
OCTA

Others use official crash statistics to come up with Orange County's most dangerous roads, but we here at the Weekly are relying on our own lying eyes to single out streets, roads, highways and freeways where we have (hopefully) avoided near-death experiences.

And so, based on these mostly Weekling nominations (as ranked by yours truly) are the Top 10 Worst Roadways in Orange County.

1) Northbound 55 freeway merging onto the northbound 5 freeway

Let the shell game begin.
Let the shell game begin.
Google Maps

God, I hate making this merge, because as I stay in a lane as far to the right on the 55 as I can while nearing the left curving on-ramp to the 5 north, people getting onto the freeway to the right of me 99.9 percent of the time decide at the very last split second, "Oh, I'm not supposed to be getting onto the 5. Let me just crank the steering wheel hard to the left to continue onto the 55." Of course, they do this without signaling, mere feet from my front bumper and soon-to-be smoking brake pads. And about 87.3 percent of the time, someone in the 55 lane to the left of me decides at the last split second, "Oh, I'm not supposed to be continuing on the 55. Let me crank the steering wheel hard to the right to get onto the 5." Signal, schmignal. It's like someone is playing the Central Park shell game with our vehicles at the lip of the connector road.

2) El Toro Y

El Toro Y from the air: Nothing confusing to see down there, folks.
El Toro Y from the air: Nothing confusing to see down there, folks.
Photo by D Ramey Logan

Upcoming Events

When the idea for this post was mentioned at a Weekly staff meeting, where the 5 and 405 freeways merge was the first and most-often cited spot. It always seems to be choked with traffic, vehicles needing to get way over from far lanes to their exits and, obviously, drivers without a clue as to where the hell they are going. I'd also add for anyone who has used the carpool lane from the 405 South to the Y that as you are making the quick descent you often discover oh-so-suddenly the red brake lights of vehicles stopped in front of (and very near) you.

3) Newport Boulevard heading southwest between Wilson and Victoria

Now playing: Newport merger hell
Now playing: Newport merger hell
Illustration by 2 Armed Octopus

From 5 to 6:30 p.m. weekdays, this Costa Mesa spot presents a "horrific display of humanity and near destruction at 5-10 mph," according to one regular driver who offers the informative graphic above as reference material.
 
4) The Orange Crush

Follow me, don't follow me, I've got my spite, I've got my Orange Crush.
Follow me, don't follow me, I've got my spite, I've got my Orange Crush.
United States Geological Survey (USGS)

Guinness World Records has cited the interchange of the 22-5-55-57-Bristol Street the world's most complex as it's an intersection of 34 different routes when you factor in collector/distributor roads, surrounding on- and off-ramps and direct carpool-to-carpool flyovers. Naturally, anywhere you have vehicles on one road traversing across heavy traffic to get to another, you're going to have problems. If this list was based solely on number of road-rage incidents, the Orange Crush would crush it.

5) Chapman Avenue exits on the northbound 55 and 57 freeways

Was that supposed to be Chapman off the 5, the 57, the 57 again, the 55 or the 55 again?
Was that supposed to be Chapman off the 5, the 57, the 57 again, the 55 or the 55 again?
Google Maps

You want confusion? There are two Chapman Avenue exits on both the 55 North and the 57 North. That, of course, leads to aimless driving by the uninformed. Adding to the bumper car potential are vehicles in the 57 North carpool lane having to quickly move across all the lanes to get off at Chapman. Toss in the usual heavy traffic in that part of the county, and disaster always lurks.

6) 405 freeway at LA County line

Now add more motorists until it's done.
Now add more motorists until it's done.
OCTA

This really is not fair because it's been a perpetual construction zone that, fingers crossed, will be finished. Some day. Probably. Then again, there are the Forces of Lexus Lanes that want to carve out toll lanes from the county line to at least Fountain Valley for now and eventually through to the 73/San Joaquin Hills toll road. Perpetual construction = perpetual traffic = perpetual sudden stops = perpetual slamm-os.

7) 5 freeway at LA County line

A welcome sight coming back from LA.
A welcome sight coming back from LA.
OCTA

Here is where we need that construction, on the LA County side, so their barely lit, prehistoric, pencil-thin freeway better meshes with the showtime-lit, modern, multiple-laned freeway on the OC side. While we do love the feeling of flooring it once all those open lanes are before you heading south into Orange County, it's tempered by the blood clot happening on the other side as those opposite lanes are funneled into LA County. Try to avoid carpel tunnel from shaking your fist at each fender bender you snake around.
 
8) Live Oak Canyon Road near Shelter Canyon Road

Live Oak Canyon Road can be peaceful one moment, deadly the next.
Live Oak Canyon Road can be peaceful one moment, deadly the next.
OrangeCounty.net

We now begin our fatality-producing canyon road section of this list. This stretch in Trabuco Canyon has been the site of many tragedies. Speed, darkness, blind corners and one lane going each way and facing one another combine to make this road a killer. Throw in some poor road conditions, road kill or soon-to-be road kill, and it's even more treacherous.

9) Any blind corner of Laguna Canyon Road/Ortega Highway

You hate to see this along a canyon road.
You hate to see this along a canyon road.
Photo by flickr user synx508

Since it doesn't seem fair to give each canyon road in Orange County its own entry since they all pretty much share the same negative forces, we'll just combine these two most notorious roadways into one. They can be especially bloody when slick or shrouded in dense fog. Those flower arrangements alongside such roads aren't there for beautification.

10) Santiago Canyon Road at Jamboree Road/Chapman Avenue

Right in here is the worst, sayeth the Register.
Right in here is the worst, sayeth the Register.
Google Maps

OK, one last canyon road. I've never had a problem driving through here myself, but the Orange County Register DID use official crash statistics in March 2014 to name this the most dangerous road in Orange County. It's actually where Santiago Canyon Road crosses Jamboree and turns into Chapman.

Tell us we're fulla beans, share your horror stories or nominate the roads/highways/freeways we missed in the comments section below.

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


Sponsor Content

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >