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The Biggest Traffic Jams In History

The biggest traffic jam on record occurred in Beijing, China, involving a 62-mile long string of traffic that lasted for an incredible 12 days.

A traffic jam, or traffic congestion, occurs when normally moving vehicles are slowed down by increased road use. During a traffic jam, drivers experience slower driving speeds and extended travel times. Often, vehicles are at a standstill. Traffic jams are associated with problems like wasted time, tardiness, increased gas consumption, and wear and tear on vehicles. It is also the main cause of road rage, an aggressive behavior exhibited by drivers toward other drivers. The situation may include vulgar hand gestures, yelling, threats, fighting, and even injury or death. Below is a list of the biggest traffic jams in history.

Beijing, China - August 2010

Drivers traveling on the Beijing-Tibet Expressway were caught in a traffic jam that caused travel to last for three days. This incident was attributed to an excess of vehicles on the road as well as slow-moving heavy trucks that were carrying materials for road work. The congestion lasted for 12 days.

Bethel, New York - August 1969

The famous Woodstock Music Festival of 1969 caused a three-day traffic jam in Bethel, New York in the US. Over 500,000 people came to attend the music and arts event which led to an increase in traffic over a 20-mile stretch. Many drivers decided to park their cars on the side of the road and walk in rather than fight the traffic.

Chicago, Illinois - February 2011

On February 1, 2011, this city experienced a blizzard of historic proportions. Just over 20 inches of snow fell during rush hour traffic causing a significant number of collisions. Cars stuck in traffic were nearly buried over a 12-hour period.

East/West Germany - April 1990

This traffic jam occurred on April 12, 1990, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. People who had been forced to live on either side of the wall were finally free to travel with ease, or so they thought. Over the Easter holiday, that ease was abrupted by 18 million cars when the highway typically carried 500,000 cars on a daily basis.

Interstate 45, Texas - September 2005

On September 21, 2005, Galveston, Texas residents were under an emergency evacuation order due to the impending Hurricane Rita. The interstate connecting to Dallas filled with roughly 2.5 million evacuees which created a 100-mile long standstill. The traffic jam lasted for two days, but the evacuation saved millions of lives.

Lyon-Paris, France - February 1980

Parisians have a long standing love affair with winter vacations to Lyon where they enjoy wine and skiing. In February of 1980, streams of vacationers returning to Paris were caught in surprise weather that left many motorists stranded. The congestion stretched for 109 miles.

Moscow, Russia - November 2012

The Highway M-10 that connects Moscow to St. Petersburg trapped travelers for three days beginning on November 30, 2012. Yet another story of inclement weather, this particular traffic jam was attended to by the government. Stranded drivers and their friends and family found shelter in government tents that provided food, drink, and counseling.

New York City, New York - September 2001

This traffic jam followed the city-wide panic caused by the terror attacks on the World Trade Center. Officials virtually shut down New York City, tunnels and bridges were closed to civilian traffic to clear the ways for emergency vehicles, and public transportation was halted as well. People wanting to flee the city were all but trapped. Even air traffic was prohibited leaving thousands of travelers stranded at the airports.

Sao Paulo, Brazil - June 2009

Brazil is infamous for its traffic jams and 4-hour road delays. The city has even begun an Uber helicopter service from the airport to the city center to counter the astonishingly long traffic times. But, on June 10, 2009, the traffic met an all time low with over 182 miles of blocked highways and 522 miles of congested city roadways. This is the result of too many vehicles in use.

Tokyo, Japan - August 1990

The highway between Hyogo and Shiga was at a standstill on August 12, 1990. For over 84 miles, holiday travelers and typhoon evacuees crowded the roadways and inched along to their destinations.

The Biggest Traffic Jams In History

RankLocation of The Traffic JamYear
1Beijing,China:Aug 10
2Bethel, New YorkAug 69
3Chicago, IllinoisFeb 11
4East/West GermanyApr 90
5Interstate 45, TexasSep 05
6Lyon-Paris, FranceFeb 80
7Moscow, RussiNov 12
8New York City, New YorkSep 01
9San Paulo, BrazilJun 09
10Tokyo, JapanAug 90

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