What Caused the Largest Car Pile Ups in History?

If you saw a massive car accident up ahead of you on the road, you’d swerve to avoid it, right? (Well, at least I hope you would!) Then how come giant car pile-ups are happening every day across the world? Just this year, there was a 21-car pile-up in Michigan, a 15-car pile-up in Jacksonville and a 19-car pile-up in China. Where I live in Southern California, cars tend to pile up faster than junk mail.

Since I kept hearing about these massive accidents, I decided to do some research into their history. Call it morbid curiosity, but I wanted to find the biggest car pile-ups in history. Turns out, compared to the others, a 21-car pile-up is actually pretty small!

-In 2012, at least 140 cars collided in Southeast Texas during extremely foggy conditions.

-In 1991, 104 vehicles, including 11 large trucks, crashed when a dust storm swept across a California highway.

-In 2008, 227 cars and 12 buses collided into a mess of burning metal on the highway connecting Dubai and Abu Dhabi, a result of reckless driving and heavy fog.

Where did the biggest pile-up happen? You probably won’t be surprised that it occurred on the German Autobahn, where speeding isn’t just allowed, it’s pretty much encouraged. In July 2009, 259 cars were involved in a pileup that was blamed on heavy rain and – you guessed it—reckless driving. Sixty six people were injured, and officials estimated it would cost around $2.5 million to clean up the mess.

So who pays for the damage to the cars? That can get tricky. The insurance companies meticulously pick apart the chain of accidents to decide who was at fault. If you were the car that smashed into the first car, you could be responsible for all the damaged cars behind you. Yikes! However, if you were the third car, fourth car or the 258th car, you might not be held liable at all. It’s usually dependent on whether the auditor decides whether you had adequate time to stop. Obviously, the reimbursement process can be even more complicated than the accident!

Then you get into the issue of uninsured motorists. If the guy who hits you doesn’t have it, you’re basically stuck.

Needless to say, the two key lessons here are to not be an idiot when you drive and to have quality insurance. To the first point, stay calm even when drivers are acting obnoxious around you. When the weather turns, slow down and be cautious. You may feel slightly silly if others are whipping past. You may feel embarrassed or anxious because you’re driving “like an old lady.” But if that caution prevents you from wiping out on the side of the road and killing yourself or someone else, then you’re much better off acting like an old lady then a hot young dead dude.

That said, if you’re the one who causes a 259 pile-up, there’s pretty much no insurance on the planet that can help. But you can take steps to cover yourself and not be a statistic.