The Worst Traffic Jams in History
If you live in or around the Los Angeles area this weekend, there’s a good chance you’re going to feel the effects of Carmageddon, when one of the bustling city’s busiest freeways will be shut down for two days and you’ll be stuck in a traffic jam for hours. When you’re sitting in your car blasting the air conditioning, wearing out your car horn, and cursing whatever god you normally pray to, just remember that your traffic jam could be worse. We may have to update this list on Monday but for now, here are the worst traffic jams in history:
The Paris Jam of 1980
In 1980, thousands of French motorist were returning from their winter vacations at the same time along a stretch of the French Autoroute between Paris and Lyon. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the resulting traffic jam stretched for 110 miles and consisted of around 18 million cars. The pile-up was due to congested roadways and Now that we’ve got another reason to hate France, can we go back to calling them Freedom Fries?
The Beijing Jam of 2010
If you were driving on the Beijing-Tibet Expressways just outside of Beijing, China in August of 2010, you would have found yourself in the middle of a 62-mile long traffic jam that took 10 full days to get through. The jam was caused by traffic congestion that could partially be blamed on an excessive number of heavy construction trucks that were carrying huge amounts of construction supplies into Beijing to (ironically) begin some roadwork that would ease traffic congestion. Unfortunate motorists crawled along at a pace of about 2 miles per day, and a number of local merchants began setting up booths to sell food and supplies to trapped motorists, who wasted away most of their down time playing chess on the hoods of their cars. Because apparently they don’t have the Nintendo DS in China.
The Houston Jam of 2005
In 2005, Hurricane Rita was scheduled to hit Houston and everyone in the city decided to evacuate at the same time. That means that 2.5 million cars were suddenly packed onto the I-45, which was the official evacuation route. The resulting traffic jam stretched for over 100 miles and lasted for over 48 hours. During the jam, motorists passed the time by playing catch and chatting with fellow evacuees, and police officers patrolled the highways distributing gas and supplies and pulling stalled cars out of the way. It took motorists about 28 hours to make the (normally) 3-hour trip from Houston to Austin. It’s the largest traffic jam in U.S. history, reinforcing the ideal that everything really is bigger in Texas…even the really, really crappy stuff.
The Tokyo Jam of 1990
First off, Tokyo Jam is a great band name. Secondly, the Tokyo Traffic Jam of 1990 was the biggest traffic jam in Japanese history. The cause was a combination of motorists and families returning from summer vacation and an evacuation in the days preceding Typhoon Winona, which is also an awesome band name. Over 15,000 cars were crammed into a traffic jam spanning 84 miles, which is huge considering that Japan is an island, and a fairly small one by comparison. Despite the incredible inconvenience, the traffic that caused this jam was only double the normal traffic, which is usually ridiculously congested anyway. If only the Japanese could invest their incredible consumer electronics innovation skills into their highway planning.
The German Border Jam of 1990
1990 was a bad year for traffic jams. Fortunately, it was a great year for Germany, because after years of Cold War separation, East Germany and West Germany were finally becoming a unified nation again. Unfortunately, that meant a multitude of celebrations, tourists, and construction work that stalled 18 million cars along the East-West German border. By comparison, the roadways normally encountered about 50,000 motorists. Geeze, Germany. I know the Cold War was pretty rough on you, but does it really take that long to knock down a wall?
The Sao Paulo Jam of Every Single Day
If traffic was the NFL, Sao Paulo, Brazil would be the Detroit Lions. It’s just absolutely, unfathomably terrible in every way possible. The city boasts the worst daily traffic in the entire world, but in June of 2009 the city set a new world record for the worst citywide traffic in history. A whopping 35% of its roadways were gridlocked in over 183 miles of citywide traffic congestion. While that particular day set a world record, a normal Sao Paulo traffic day isn’t much better. It’s been estimated that a baby born in Sao Paulo is 15 years old by the time his parents get home from the hospital. That may be a slight exaggeration, but the fact remains: Sao Paulo traffic is unbelievably horrid.
The Moscow Jam of Every Winter
Moscow traffic may not be quite up to the record-breaking levels of Sao Paulo, but Moscow has something that Sao Paulo doesn’t: Winter. In its coldest months snow, ice, and unsafe driving conditions cause accidents and road closures that frequently bring Moscow traffic to a complete standstill. This wouldn’t be so bad, but economic upturns in recent years have led to increased car ownership in Moscow, and the road conditions haven’t quite caught up to the number of motorists just yet. It’s a perfect formula for a nightmare traffic scenario: bad weather plus a surplus in vehicles plus crappy roads equals a traffic disaster waiting to happen. In Russia, traffic jam gets stuck in you.
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