Skip to main content

On August 14, 2010, drivers on China’s Highway 110, or the G110, found themselves slowing to a stop. And sitting. And sitting some more. Thousands of cars would ultimately become gridlocked at a snail’s pace for days. This disastrous series of slowdowns is considered the world’s worst traffic jam.

With its recent population and car ownership booms, China’s transportation infrastructure has become more and more strained in urban areas. Due to Highway 110’s central location, leading to China’s capital city, Beijing, the road is subject to incredible traffic under normal circumstances.

On this particular Wednesday, the car count exceeded the G110 limit by a whopping 60%. Drivers were forced to sit in the traffic jam for days on end. Authorities feared that some would begin to starve. Theme park-priced food and drinks were offered at preposterous markups to stranded folks.

At times, vehicles were at a total standstill, and the average recorded pace was a dismal .6 miles per day. Some drivers were stuck for five and six days before exiting the logjam.

A line of cars is shown heading away from camera to left rear corner of frame traffic jam three rows
alexandragl1 via iStock

What caused the world’s worst traffic jam?

Certain areas suffered restricted flow from construction and maintenance. Others were affected by fender benders. However, the most cited cause of the incredible traffic jam was heavy commercial trucks.

Beijing’s general operations require heavy-duty trucks endlessly enter and leave the city. In 2009, coal trucks hauled more than 600 million tons on the highway. This rose to more than 700 million tons in 2010.

Authorities ultimately solved the traffic jam by requesting commercial trucks operate outside of peak passenger car hours. By the end of August, 12 days after the jam began, the gridlock had dissolved.

According to CnEVPost, China had 486 million registered drivers as of October 2023. In 2023, China saw 24.56 million newly registered vehicles. This is the 10th year in a row China collected more than 20 million new vehicle registrations.

Consumer Affairs reports that in the U.S., there were over 243 million registered drivers by the end of 2023.