China traffic jam vanishes overnight?

The China traffic jam that has awed the world this week essentially vanished overnight, according to some Western media outlets. But that's not likely to mean smooth driving anytime soon.

A truck driver washed himself Monday after waiting over two days in the massive China traffic jam on an entrance ramp to the Beijing-Tibet Highway.

On the 12th day, the road was cleared?

The China traffic jam that clogged over 60 miles along Beijing-Tibet highway for almost two weeks between Beijing and Hebei province has “vanished,” according to reports from MSNBC and the French news agency, AFP.

Virtually overnight, local authorities had managed to disperse the congestion,” writes Adrienne Mong of MSNBC. “By the time we reached the area, all we encountered were the garden-variety traffic jams here and there.”

IN PICTURES: China's huge traffic jam

AFP reporters also ventured the 260 kilometers to inspect the congested zone and “did not encounter anything but intermittent traffic jams at toll booths.”

If the reports are accurate, does this mean smooth sailing for travelers along China’s G110 National Expressway from now on?

Not likely.

Not with coal production in Inner Mongolia steadily on the rise and a growing appetite for it in Beijing, not with construction on the G110 highway set to continue until at least mid-September, and not with this being the second of such bizarre incidents in the same region in two months.

In fact, though a bit on the extreme side, the 11-day traffic jam mirrors similar incidents that occur frequently and regularly across the country, most of which last anywhere between a few hours to a few days.

Trucks and construction are regarded as the main culprits in this most recent case, but state media reported that smaller accidents and broken-down cars aggravated the situation, for you can always count on China’s impatient and inexperienced drivers to make matters worse.

The Daily Telegraph’s Tim Collard paints an accurate picture of the reality of driving in China when he writes that in Beijing, “the lanes of the motorway [disintegrate] into anarchy as everyone struggle[s] to get his nose in front of everyone else and steal a couple of feet of ground.”

Other commonplace driving tendencies include 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 seatbelts, checking rearview mirrors, giving ambulances priority and respecting a pedestrian’s right of way are practically nonexistent behaviors – all of which factor into why China averages 3.5 times more traffic-related deaths than the US, according to Global Times.

Last year, China overtook the US as the world’s largest car market, with an estimated 75 million vehicle owners by the end of this year. “Unfortunately,” notes The Economist, “many of the people driving all these shiny new cars are themselves new to the practice, and not yet very good at it.”

China may have just stepped into its automobile age, but Beijing has already made it to the top of IBM’s 2010 Commuter Pain Survey as having the world’s most painful, unreliable, and anger-inducing commutes.

IN PICTURES: China's huge traffic jam

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