China may have overtaken the United States as the world's No. 1 car market, but the country's transportation infrastructure hasn't quite caught up.
Last week, news reports told of a 60-mile-long traffic jam on Highway 110, which links Beijing with Inner Mongolia. The monster jam consisted primarily of trucks hauling coal from Inner Mongolia.
The Wall Street Journal reported that drivers were progressing as slowly as a third of a mile per day. Vendors seized the opportunity to peddle food to the beleaguered drivers, many of whom left their vehicles to play cards, bathe or sleep.
It's no wonder traffic is a problem in China. In Beijing alone, as many as 15,000 new cars go onto the roads every week.
The Christian Science Monitor reported that massive traffic tie-ups have resulted in such behaviors as "sleeping during a traffic jam, stopping in the middle of a road or expressway to look at a map or call for directions, driving on opposite sides of the street or on sidewalks as desired and honking vigorously at other cars, bikes and pedestrians -- or simply at the world in general. Meanwhile, buckling seat belts, checking rearview mirrors, giving ambulances priority and respecting a pedestrian's right of way are practically nonexistent behaviors."
All that contributes to China's soaring traffic death toll -- about three times the number in the United States.
As The Economist magazine notes, "Many of the people driving all these shiny new cars are themselves new to the practice and not yet very good at it."