Discover the 6 Most Dangerous Places in Illinois

Dangerous IL
© Animals

Written by Miguel Conner

Published: November 24, 2023

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When thinking of Illinois, the word “dangerous” might not come to mind unless it’s the recollection of Al Capone or speculation on the more challenging neighborhoods of Chicago. What can be dangerous about deep dish pizza or corn besides hearty heartburn, and where is the threat of attending a game of the lovable Cubs besides an errant foul ball?

But the truth is that the Land of Lincoln, in its beauty and culture, holds dangerous places everyone should know about, whether they are visiting or already living there.

The Most Dangerous City

Bridge in Rockford

Rockford comes in as the fourth most dangerous city in Illinois.

©Henryk Sadura/iStock via Getty Images

No, it’s not Chicago. This is not a glitch in the Matrix.

The most dangerous city in Illinois is Danville, located in Vermilion River country. The city has a jaw-dropping crime rate t 213% above the state average. With a small population of a little over 30,000 residents, there is a 1 in 17 chance of becoming a crime victim. Why is it so dangerous? The answer has to do with a lack of policing, good schooling, and job opportunities that have eroded the city since 2020, skyrocketing crime rates with no end in sight.

What about Chicago? The city is ranked sixth in crime for Illinois. If visiting neighborhoods, Englewood and West Englewood are the most dangerous, while Forest Glen and Lincoln Park are considered the safest. As with any big city, the location doesn’t matter; vigilance and common sense are always required.

Runner-ups: Peoria, Springfield, Rockford, and Champaign.

The Most Dangerous Road

Aerial view of Chicago's O'Hare airport

Roads around Chicago’s O’Hare Airport are congested and dangerous, and this includes the Elgin O’Hare Tollway.

©Thomas Barrat/

There are over 300,000 car accidents annually in Illinois. In 2022, 1,151 fatal crashes led to 1,269 total fatalities.

In Illinois, it’s not the empty roads of speeding cars that create unsafe situations but the congested expressways slicing through Chicago. Meet Route 55/Stevenson Expressway, a highly congested stretch of Chicago. The Stevenson Expressway is a magnet for rowdy drivers and astonishing car accidents. And this is not even mentioning road rage shootings and rocks thrown off passing bridges. Lastly, a highway riddled with potholes due to traffic and punishing weather provides higher chances for accidents.

Runner-ups: Dan Ryan Expressway, Elgin O’Hare Tollway, and Route 66/55 (the first two in the Chicagoland area).

The Most Dangerous Bridge

Facing west, a panorama view of the Parker through truss bridge that once carried Tarter Ferry Road over the Spoon River.

Illinois is a state with 4571 structurally deficient bridges.

©Fmiser / CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

Sadly, when it comes to dangerous bridges, Illinois is a collapsing bridge over troubled waters. The state hosts 4571 structurally deficient bridges, the third highest in the entire nation! With 26,848 total bridges, almost 9% of its bridges are structurally deficient. Peoria County contains the most structurally deficient bridges: 79 out of 351 (22.5%).

If a winner were chosen for the dubious category of the most dangerous bridge, it would be awarded to the Poplar Street Bridge in St. Clair County since it’s the most traveled structurally deficient bridge with 117,000 daily crossings.

Runner up: With 214,000 vehicles crossing daily, the I-90/94 bridge over Stewart Ave to 28th Place in Chicago is more traveled than the Poplar Street Bridge. But it receives second place simply for being more prominent in size and more robust in build.

The Most Dangerous Lake

Waves crash along the Lake Michigan shore in front of Point Betsie Lighthouse, during sunset

Lake Michigan is both a beauty and a beast when it comes to Illinois residents.

©Craig Sterken/

Leaving human creations to the serenity of nature doesn’t make Illinois any safer. When it comes to lakes, just like bridges, Illinois houses truly hazardous bodies of water. The state brags the deadliest lake in North America: Lake Michigan. This body of water is beautiful and abundant for watersports and fishing. It is the only Great Lake surrounded by American states, but it is especially threatening to the Illinois border. Since 2022, 150 people have died in the seemingly temperate water of the third largest of the Great Lakes. Besides its sometimes unpredictable waters, it doesn’t help that many Illinois beaches are devoid of lifeguards, even during summer.

Runner up: Lake Kinkaid is not precisely dangerous for swimmers or boaters, but it is considered one of the most polluted lakes in the US. With toxic amounts of mercury and other chemicals, it’s not safe for swimming. Authorities also warn not to eat its highly contaminated fish!

The Most Dangerous Trail

Forest in Mississippi Palisades state park, Illinois

The state is full of natural parks and trails, some of which can be challenging and full of wild animals.

© Patterson

The Godwin Trail in Shawnee National Forest is considered one of the most dangerous hikes in Illinois. The 12.4-mile loop trail takes hikers through sand, water, and forest. Hikers are granted fantastic views of southern Illinois. However, the route can be highly challenging for beginners, even risky, because of its steep grades and slippery paths. The wooded areas are also known to house native venomous snakes like the copperhead, cottonmouth, and timber rattlesnake, and poison hemlock is common in waste areas and damp soil.

Speaking of dangerous animals (and on an interesting side note), one of the deadliest in Illinois is the deer. No, these are not killer mutant deer but deer hit by vehicles. In 2022, the deer-related crashes resulted in 13,892 instances of damage to property or vehicles, 629 injuries, and four fatalities. 

Runner up: In Oglesby, hikers can dare to cross Starved Rock to Hennepin Canyon. The terrain is not particularly dangerous, but a taxing 8.2-mile hike can take more than 8 hours.

The Most Dangerous Weather

Weather extremes are common in Illinois, as with much of the Midwest.


No discussion of Illinois and danger should exclude its weather. The weather may not be a place, but it affects all locations, so it must be watched. The Midwest is known for its extreme climate, from artic-like winters to brutally hot summers, and all the benefits and perils included.

Illinois ranks fourth in the country for the most tornadoes per square mile. Nearly 53 tornadoes happen in Illinois annually between April and June. But tornadoes are not the most significant weather danger for humans in Illinois. Annually, 74 deaths are attributed to high heat, while 18 are credited to extreme cold. However, the most damaging weather hazard in the state is flooding, increasing faster than anywhere else in the nation and causing $257 million annually since 1983.

Illinois is always prepared for other extreme weather phenomena, from blizzards to droughts. At least there’s no worry about earthquakes, unlike the West Coast, right? Not so fast, as earthquakes happen in the state about once every year. However, they tend to be minor in scope, with a magnitude of 5.0 or larger happening approximately every 20 years.

List of Most Dangerous Places in Ilinois
Dangerous CityDanville
Dangerous RoadRoute 55/Stevenson Expressway
Dangerous BridgePoplar Street Bridge
Dangerous LakeLake Michicagan
Dangerous TrailThe Godwin Trail
Dangerous WeatherHigh Heat

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