7 Longest Traffic Jams in History

Giving most of us a reason to whine, complain and show up late for work, traffic jams are a way of life, but these 7 longest traffic jams in history stand above the rest as the worst ever. From 110-mile pileups in France to millions of residents evacuating before a natural disaster, these traffic jams make the M1  highways in England look deserted in comparison to some of these.

1. Beijing, China

On the Beijing-Tibet Expressways just outside of Beijing, drivers were trapped in a 62-mile traffic jam that lasted over 12 days in August of 2010. Crawling along at a speed of just two miles per day, some drivers estimated that it took them three days to pass through the congestion. 

The cause of the jam was due to not only the skyrocketing number of cars and drivers in China but also the heavy use of the route by trucks bringing construction supplies to Beijing. Interestingly enough, those construction supplies were for road work on the highway, a plan that intended to lessen the congestion and eliminate traffic jams.

A hassle to most, the traffic jam gave birth to a mini-economy with local merchants capitalizing on the drivers by selling water and food such as instant noodles at inflated prices. Some drivers passed time by playing cards, while others were victims of theft and extortion from the local residents.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

2. Lyon to Paris, France

What happens when hundreds of people are returning from their ski holidays in France? The longest traffic jam on record. According to Guinness World of Records, the longest traffic jam reported in history was 109 miles long, spanning from Lyon to Paris on February 16, 1980. The jam occurred on the French Autoroute as a result of highway congestion and poor weather. 

Little is known about how long drivers were stuck in the French mess, but at a distance of 110 miles, slow speeds and poor weather, it’s easy to assume that drivers would have been in the jam for several hours. Pretty sure after that mess anyone would need another ski vacation before returning to regular life.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

3. North of Houston

With more than 2.5 million people trying to evacuate Houston before the hit of Hurricane Rita in 2005, traffic jams extended up to 100 miles long on the official evacuation route of Interstate 45. In the largest evacuation in United States history, three million people flooded the freeways, starting on September 21, 2005. 48 hours later, many were stranded in the gridlock, where they’d sit for up to 24 hours during the nearly 300-mile trek from Galveston to Dallas.

Police officers patrolled the highways, carrying gasoline to help the evacuees get out of the city, while tow trucks tried to move along the shoulders, pulling stalled cars out of the way. When traffic came to standstills, drivers got out of their cars and played catch, stood next to their cars, videotaped the scene or walked between vehicles and chatting with people along the way. Some even laid down for naps in parking lots.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

4. Sao Paulo, Brazil

Reported in Time magazine as the city with the world’s worst traffic jams, Sao Paulo, Brazil, set a record with more than 182 miles of accumulated jams out of 522 miles monitored on June 10, 2009.

No matter the day of the week or the time of the day, the city faces severe congestion. Typically, the length of a traffic jam spans to 120 miles at peak hours with drivers spending up to three-to-four hours behind the wheel in traffic each day.

The cause of the extreme traffic rests in the rising economy and living standards. Skyrocketing amounts of commercial vehicles are sold each year, with approximately 1,000 new vehicles driving on the streets each day.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

5. Japan

Combining the frantic evacuations of the Hurricane Rita traffic jam with the holiday travel seen in the Lyon-Paris traffic jam, the biggest traffic jam in the history of Japan included over 15,000 cars. On August 12, 1990, vehicles packed the highways both to return from the summer holiday and due to Typhoon Winona.

The traffic jam made an already congested area spanning 84 miles even worse as families and travelers dealt with the chaos of the situation. Though notable, this is only just over double the normal traffic load of the highways outside Tokyo, which, due to their 18th century design, can become overloaded as far as 30-40 miles outside the city.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

6. East to West German Border

Coming in as the biggest traffic jam in history when recorded by the number of cars, on April 12, 1990, an estimated 18 million cars were knotted up at the East-West border in Germany. To put the numbers in perspective, on an average day only about 50,000 vehicles hit the highway each day. 

Likely a pain in the butt for any of the 18 million drivers at the time, the traffic jam did have a pretty good reason behind it. At the same time, Germany was going through its reunification period in which East and West Germany became one.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

7. Hamburg Germany

Coming in as the biggest traffic jam in history when recorded by the number of cars, on April 12, 1990, an estimated 18 million cars were knotted up at the East-West border in Germany. To put the numbers in perspective, on an average day only about 50,000 vehicles hit the highway each day. 

Likely a pain in the butt for any of the 18 million drivers at the time, the traffic jam did have a pretty good reason behind it. At the same time, Germany was going through its reunification period in which East and West Germany became one.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————–