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The world's busiest roads
The world has a lot of cars, more than one billion according to our best estimates, but there's only so much road on which to drive them all. As vehicle numbers rocket inexorably skywards and demand for road building space in populated areas mounts, there may be trouble ahead.
In the eyes of many UK motorists who creep their way to work through the traffic jams every morning, we've already reached breaking point but car congestion levels still vary greatly from place to place. Are our roads really that busy compared to those in other countries?
Well, let's find out. The automotive analysts at Wards Auto have assembled figures showing which nations are a bumper's breadth from crippling gridlock and which are criss-crossed by miles of traffic-free tarmac. They make very interesting reading.
Roads used as racetracks
The most dangerous roads in Europe
The world's most dangerous roads
The most congested countries
By taking the population of a country, dividing it by the total number of cars owned there and then dividing the result by the total length of the nation's road network, you arrive at a figure for the total number of cars per mile of road.
The Wards Auto data provides the number of cars per mile of road in 52 of the world's major countries and we're bringing you the top and bottom 10 countries in the tables below.
Cars per mile of road
Before we get stuck in, let's put things into perspective. Today's five-door Ford Focus is a mid-sized family hatchback. It's just over 4.4 metres long so you could get 370 and a half of them parked end-to-end on a mile of road.
When you apply that nugget of information to South Korea, the country with the world's busiest roads at 280.3 cars per mile, it doesn't look like they've got much capacity left at all. In theory, if too many Korean motorists suddenly decided to switch from stubby city cars to long-wheelbase luxury saloons, the whole country might grind to a halt.
It won't come as a surprise to many UK motorists that our roads are ranked as the fifth busiest in the world. With 144.8 cars per mile, we're just ahead of Italy's total of 137.4. Luxembourg, Portugal and Germany make up the top 10's other European representatives, in that order.
The quietest roads in the world
The average number of cars per mile of road across all the 52 countries surveyed is 76.7. The US is actually below average with 59.3 cars per mile despite its well-documented love affair with the car. Presumably, that's thanks to the abundance of wide open spaces between the densely populated American cities.
As for the quietest roads in the world, India comes out on top with only 10.1 cars per mile and China sneaks in at number 10 with 32.5. This only goes to underline the scope for growth in these vast developing nations and it neatly explains why the world's car manufacturers are rushing to gain a foothold in these emerging markets. While Europe is fast closing in on its maximum car capacity, many parts of Asia and South America have a long way to go and a lot more road space to fill.
What does the future hold?
While few would bet on China and India appearing on a quietest-roads list compiled in a couple of decades time, the likes of Australia and Canada, with their relatively low populations and huge sparsely populated regions, would probably still be there.
But who knows, by 2050 Canada's frozen wastes and the Australian outback might be the hot holiday destinations for beleaguered motorists looking to the rediscover the joys of driving with nobody else around.
Tell us about the busiest roads you've encountered in the comments section below...
|Top 10 countries with the highest road traffic|
|Rank||Country||Cars per mile|
|Top 10 countries with the lowest road traffic|
|Rank||Country||Cars per mile|
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