According to a recent annual mobility study by the Texas A&M Transport Institute, the average commuter in America spends as much as 38 hours in traffic each year. This is the equivalent to a working week spent bored and frustrated behind the wheel in a long, unmoving line. In large cities, this can stretch to nearly 60 hours a year of being stuck in traffic!
Whether you’re late for an important meeting or taking the kids to school, being in traffic isn’t exactly fun – but sometimes, an unexpected cause for the delay can put a smile on your face and even give you an interesting spectacle for your troubles too! We’d bet that no driver expected some of these things to be the cause for their Monday morning hold up. To look at some of the odd and hilarious things that have wound up on roads and motorways on this list, you could be forgiven for thinking these were rejects from the Macy’s Day parade route.
From the comical (naked chicks and a giant ‘Minion’ character) to the downright surreal (Obama playing catch), these are not your average causes for traffic and delays on the road. The poor commuters caught up in these bizarre traffic lines might have suspected their morning coffee was spiked (and any excuses they had to give for being late were almost certainly not believed by their boss).
Here are 15 of some of the craziest causes for traffic build-up on roads around the world…
If, as the age-old cliché goes, a beautiful woman can stop traffic, then it’s little wonder that one woman almost caused a pile-up. When a woman in Vienna, Austria decided to sunbathe in the buff, she caused a traffic collision and caught the attention of onlookers. The naked sunbather lay near an open window with her legs dangling and her bronzed bum on display – which drove a few male drivers to distraction to say the least.
Upon spotting the bare tanned beauty, one motorist took their eyes off the road and suffered a fender bender with another vehicle. The man who had been rear-ended soon understood the other motorist when he pointed out his reason for careless driving. Cars continued to block the road until police arrived at the scene. By then, of course, the girl to cause all the traffic mayhem was back inside the building.
14. Mysterious Levitating Vehicle
Motorists at a busy intersection in Xingtai, North China were left spooked by what appeared to be three vehicles mysteriously starting to levitate at the traffic lights. A surveillance camera caught the incredible footage of two vehicles almost lifting completely off the ground, including one van that flipped over completely.
For fans of the supernatural, sorry to burst your bubble but this strange accident wasn’t the work of a ghost (as much as it might seem like it). It was actually caused by a road maintenance cable that became snagged under the wheels of the passing vehicles. The cable had been left on the road and caught up in the mechanism of a road sweeper, which then caused the vehicles to leap into the air. Maybe Ron Weasley was practising his lousy ‘Wingardium Leviosa’ at the side of the road?
13. Sleepy Elephant
When you’re driving through a Safari Park, most of the animals (especially the larger ones) are usually kept at a safe distance from your car. Tell that to Five the elephant who lived up to his name and took five to have a nap, right in front of the road where a long line of visitors were forced to wait in their cars at a West Midlands Safari Park in the UK.
The 20-year-old African elephant was reportedly dozy from the unseasonably warm October weather and decided to kip within metres of awe-struck visitors inside their cars. The Safari head keeper came to find Five and a huge build-up of traffic in front of him. Something tells us the visitors weren’t too annoyed about it – they probably got closer to nature than others did for their money.
12. Powdered Cement
All it really takes for powdered cement to harden and set is a bit of liquid, so when a truck full of cement collided with another heavy goods vehicle spilling oil and diesel out onto a road on one of the hottest days of the year…you can probably see where this is going.
Fortunately, specialist teams were able to reach the crash site in Lancashire and help clear things up before most of the cement had a chance to set. This probably wasn’t much consolation to other motorists though, as the road was closed for 18 hours during the clean-up operation, with many drivers claiming to be stuck in traffic for seven hours after the crash. At least they weren’t stuck in cement though, right?
11. Christmas Trees
#It’s the most wonderful time of the year# Not so much for motorists in Essex, England who had their merry way blocked by a bunch of Christmas trees while trying to make it back home. When a trailer carrying a load of trees accidentally clipped the central barrier of the A12 motorway, it unfortunately overturned and sent the lot spilling out onto a major road. Cleaning up all those pine needles must have been a nightmare!
Road accidents that involve Christmas trees seem to be pretty common on roads around the world. A similar incident in downtown Los Angeles saw a rig carrying 42,000 pounds of Christmas trees overturn, which caused a road closure that lasted for several hours. Police are still on the hunt for a few hundred baubles and an angel.
10. Marmite (20 Tonnes Of It)
Due to its distinct bitter taste and powerful smell, this British sandwich spread is the ultimate ‘love it or hate it’ food – so when 20 tonnes of the stuff spilled onto a motorway in South Yorkshire, motorists presumably didn’t know whether to throw up or scavenge some of the weirdly addictive stuff for themselves.
Marmite, which is dark brown in colour and made from yeast extract, is notoriously sticky, which may explain why the clean-up job lasted a gruelling 12 hours for the poor road maintenance team. It’s dark, gooey appearance could’ve been mistaken for road tar (some might argue that road tar smells more pleasant!) The driver was thankfully unharmed in the incident, although he did have to be freed after becoming trapped in the vehicle. Sounds more like an industrial glue than a food spread…
Why did the dinosaur cross the road? Because some ingenious drunk pranksters put him there, of course! Motorists in the Isle of Wight may have been worried they were accidentally drink-driving (or on something much stronger) when they spotted this Triceratops in the middle of the road. One man was reportedly making his way home from work at around 3am when he clocked the 20 foot model dino wandering across the tarmac.
The model triceratops was moved from a small Dinosaur museum in the area and has since found fame as the village mascot. The owner of the local dinosaur museum, Martin Simpson, said jokingly that he promised to “buy a good fence” for the wandering triceratops. Just make sure it’s better than the one in Jurassic Park, okay?
8. Raw Human Sewage
Of all the substances to burst onto the road and hold up traffic, this has to be the nastiest of the lot. We really don’t envy the poor environment workers who had to clear this stuff up. Eww, just…no! In March 2009, a heavy goods vehicle crashed on the A3 road near Guildford in the UK and unfortunately let loose a hefty load of raw human sewage onto the road.
Due to the sheer volume and incredibly hazardous nature of the spilled sewage, it took a group of specialist teams a total of 5 hours to have it all removed and for the road to be cleaned and re-opened again. Something tells us that road still has a lingering whiff of it to this day. Gross.
7. A (Fake) Giant Octopus
Oxford Circus in London is known to be the busiest shopping street in the whole of Europe – so how could anyone possibly create more havoc there? By driving a lorry with a giant octopus strapped to the back, of course! Since a giant sea creature was stranded in a place named ‘circus’, you may have thought he was on his way to perform a juggling act. The truth, as they say, is even stranger than fiction.
The 2 metre tall polystyrene octopus was apparently on its way to a World Cup event elsewhere in the capital when it broke down in one of the city’s busiest intersections – nearly bringing central London to a standstill. It’s a shame that it wasn’t a real-life octopus. With eight arms, this guy could’ve helped a lot of people out with their shopping.
6. 6,000 Chickens
No, this isn’t the premise for a Monty Python sketch – thousands of chickens really were let loose on the road. In the early hours of a May morning in 2014, a real-life Chicken Run occurred when a truck loaded with roughly 6,000 chickens crashed into a safety barrier on the M62 in Greater Manchester, causing several delays.
A frenzied rescue operation managed to track down and save the majority of the runaway birds, but more than 1,000 were killed in the impact of the crash or by passing cars in the area. As tragic as it sounds, it’s kind of hard not to smile at the thought of thousands of escaped chickens running around frantically, trying to dodge traffic. Almost sounds like an iPhone app.
5. Jimi Hendrix
A major traffic jam was caused by people wanting to hear a jam? Pretty much. When it was announced that Jimi Hendrix was scheduled to play at Woodstock in 1969, 50,000 people were expected to turn up to the gig. The thing is, word spread and 50,000 quickly snowballed into half a million music fans and peace-loving folk eager to hear him play.
The traffic that ensued in an eagerness to see the legendary rocker got to the point where thousands of people abandoned their cars and made their way to the gig on foot. The scene got so chaotic that many performers had to arrive by helicopter and traffic on the New York Thruway stretched for over 10 miles for the festival’s 3 day duration!
4. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
Everyone likes a doughnut every now and then, but the people of Edinburgh went so crazy for the round sugary treats that they caused complete traffic mayhem. Scotland opened its first ever Krispy Kreme drive-thru store in Edinburgh back in February 2013, and cars queued for hours just to get a taste.
The store reportedly made £60,000 ($75,000) in its opening day and served 400 customers in the first hour. The craze for the glazed treats caused mile-long tailbacks in the capital and before the end of the day, police were forced to urge drivers to avoid the western side of the city altogether. Some police officers were apparently seen enjoying a box of doughnuts for their hard work – not doing much for the ‘cops eating doughnuts’ stereotype, guys!
3. Barack Obama Playing Baseball
Yep, you read right. In 2014, the President of the United States and his motorcade decided to get out on to a lawn in Washington for a quick game of catch. The only problem was, President Obama picked the worst possible time for an urge to play baseball, as it was in the middle of late afternoon rush hour traffic!
Obama and his entourage reportedly stopped for only 12 minutes to play baseball and chat with some youngsters in the DC area, but 12 minutes was enough time to cause catastrophic delays for many commuters heading over the Key Bridge in Washington. Obama’s unscheduled stop was reportedly on route to a fundraiser in New York. Presumably, Obama gets in the mood for a charity ball by playing ball.
2. 5,000 Migrating Ducks
Morning commuters in the Chinese coastal city of Taizhou were forced to sit back and wait their turn when 5,000 ducks waddled on to the road. A local farmer herded them every last one along the busy main road for half a mile to a feeding pond in nearby Zhejiang in 2012.
As bizarre as it may seem to us, this is a regular occurrence in the Zhejiang province of China, with local farmers making the annual trip to herd hungry ducks looking for lunch. Amazingly, the farmer guiding the 5,000 strong flock of ducks used only a long stick (and a lot of patience) to keep them in line. Farmers may be pretty zen about the whole thing, but I’ll bet plenty of motorists went completely quackers. Sorry.
1. Giant Inflatable Minion
With their googly eyes and infectious laughter, the funny little twinkie-shaped characters from Despicable Me are adored worldwide. What may not be so adorable, however, is seeing a 40 foot one rolling towards your car on the way to work! This was the reality for some undoubtedly bewildered drivers in Dublin last year, when a giant inflatable minion escaped from its restraints at a nearby fairground and made its way onto a main road.
Aside from a broken wing mirror, nobody was hurt and many onlookers saw the funny side. Even so, this must have been pretty terrifying for drivers within metres of the runaway minion. Council officials later took to twitter, admitting that the incident “may seem hilarious, but it is a despicable breach of health and safety.” Good one.