The Worst Pileups in History

The Worst Pileups in History

Last Updated February 5, 2020

Most of the time, when you hear mention of an accident being referred to as a “pileup,” it involves three or maybe five cars. But while there’s no such thing as a good accident, history has been witness to some truly outrageous calamities involving quantities of cars in double and even triple digits.

The infographic below breaks down the greatest spectacles of automotive chaos ever recorded on public roads. In the case of each incident, the two common factors were congested roadways and weather. Read on to learn more about the deadly recipe that creates this type of wreck, how to avoid them and what to do if you have the unfortunate luck of being in the middle of one.

[click the infographic below]

Worst Pileups Infographic

It’s difficult to imagine what a 160-car wreck would even look like, let alone comprehend the bedlam of a mass-wreck involving 300 cars on a highway in Sao Paolo. The number of cars involved, however, doesn’t seem to correlate directly with the number of people hurt.

A crash that claimed 17 lives and injured many more involved about one-third the number of cars dinged in the 300-car Brazilian bust-up. It’s likely that lower driving speeds in South America contributed to keeping the Sao Paolo pileup off of the highest fatality list.

Interestingly, the weather condition most commonly responsible for large pileups has the smallest direct effect on your car’s road behavior. Rather, a lack of visibility caused by thick fog has been the culprit in the cases involving the largest number of cars.

Driving in any sort of hazardous weather should always be avoided, but what about times when you need to travel or aren’t forewarned that things could get messy?

Remember to only drive at the appropriate speed for road conditions, even if that means a leisurely crawl, it’s better than being in a wreck. If visibility is poor, use your hazard lights to alert other cars, and watch for taillights. Do not use your high beams in bad weather, as the reflection from them will only further decrease visibility.

If you live in a region that regularly deals with snow, equipping your car with a quality set of snow tires can be the difference between a collision and arriving safely at your destination.

Remember to leave a safe distance between your car and others, as following too closely is often associated with major wrecks. If things get so bad that you’re not comfortable driving, pull over and wait out the weather or call for assistance using a service like AAA.

In the unfortunate event that you do end up in a crash, don’t panic. There are things you can do to ensure you and your passengers stay safe. Remember to stay in your car unless conditions change and you are confident that other road-goers are being directed away from the crash.

If you determine that it’s safe to leave your vehicle, get off the road quickly and look for emergency personnel. Direct other cars away from the crash, contact your loved ones to inform them of the situation and, if possible, take pictures to record what went on.

Driving is something many of us do every day, but it doesn't come without risks. When you venture out onto the road, being educated about how wrecks happen is the best way to increase your own safety and the safety of those around you.

The Worst Pileups in History

Pileup. The term alone conjures thoughts of blazer-clad news anchors cautioning you to seek an alternative route to work, because things are backed up. Hopefully, that’s the only thing it evokes thoughts of. Being involved in a multi-car crash is one of the most dangerous situations you can find yourself in on the road.