Your Hump-Day Recess: World’s Worst Traffic Jams

No one loves a traffic jam. This icon of frustration is easily the most despised phenomenon of industrial civilization. Some jams come as infuriating surprises to drivers; others are daily punishments, all the more enraging because they are so predictable.

So, do you think you’ve been in a traffic jam? Think again. Some tie-ups are so bad they enter the annals of history. Here are a few you should thank your lucky stars you missed:

Largest number of cars: Berlin, April 1990. What happens when a country that everyone wants to get out of opens its doors?Remix of orig. photo by Ben Schumin [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsWhen the Berlin Wall fell, Eastern Europeans packed up their treasures and hopped into 18 million Trabants to make the trip across the former checkpoint. Since the Saxony-made two-stroke rattletraps were illegal on West German roads, refugees abandoned them at the border, creating the world’s largest parking lot/junkyard at the same time.

Longest traffic jam (distance): Lyon to Paris, France, Feb. 1980. Bad weather began slowing down roads already clogged with returning holidaymakers (vacation in February? This is France, remember). The jam stretched 109 miles.traffic jam

Longest traffic jam (time): Beijing, August 2010: China’s Highway 110 is always busy, as it’s a route for coal trucks from Inner Mongolia’s massive open pit mines. One summer a combination of roadwork and an unusually large number of coal trucks created a 60-mile jam that lasted – we aren’t kidding – twelve days. Cars moved, at times, just a mile a day. This being one of the great capitalist nations, entrepreneurs stepped in to gouge drivers with high-priced food and water. Incidentally, there was a toll road that paralleled Highway 110 — no traffic problems there. We hope that whatever money the drivers saved on the free road was worth  almost two weeks of their lives.

Moral: the next time you need to hit the brakes because the highway looks like a parking lot, have some perspective. It could be worse: it has been.

Your Hump Day Recess: Every Wednesday LifeSafer brings you something a little different, related to the worlds of road safety, to ease your progress over Hump Day and through the week.

Previous Hump Days: car safety, animals, and posters.