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Where (and when) is traffic the heaviest in Germany?

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Where (and when) is traffic the heaviest in Germany?
A traffic jam on the A3 in Cologne before the start of school holidays in June 2023. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Rolf Vennenbernd

Germany's Autobahn saw a spike in traffic jams last year, according to a ADAC report published Tuesday. Where is car congestion the heaviest - and how does it compare to pre-Covid-levels?

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There were significantly more traffic jams and gridlock on the German Autobahn in 2023 than in the previous year. However, the pre-Covid level from 2019 was not reached, according to the motorists associations' ADAC's Congestion Report published Tuesday. 

The duration of delays on the Autobahn amounted to 427,000 hours last year: That's a quarter more than in 2022, but still a sixth less than in 2019.

ADAC stated that they expect even more traffic jams in 2024 - not least due to the many roadworks planned on Germany's highways as well as even more people returning to office jobs.

Where are traffic jams the worst?

As in previous years, the state with the most traffic jams was North Rhine-Westphalia - Germany’s most populous - with just under 34 percent, followed by Bavaria with 15 percent and Baden-Württemberg with 10 percent.

Among the interregional highways, the most congested road was the A3, which runs across Germany from the Dutch border to Passau in the very south, followed by the A8, which runs across southern Germany, and the A0, also known as the Berlin Ring Road. 

Where lanes are removed or narrowed, traffic jams are particularly common. Between 800 and 1,500 roadworks were reported in 2023 - around half of them in North Rhine-Westphalia. By comparison, there were between 600 and 1,000 roadworks in 2022.

A traffic jam on the A8 in Pforzheim, Baden-Württemberg in December 2023. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uli Deck

At what times is traffic the heaviest?

The most congested days of the week were Wednesday and Thursday. As in previous years, there was the least congestion on Mondays and at weekends.

As more people returned to the office, more rush hour-traffic jams appeared. "In 2023, more and more employees appear to be working more on site and less from home," wrote ADAC traffic data specialist Susanne Hessel in the report.

"The rush-hour traffic jam peak from 6 am to 9 am was significantly more pronounced in 2023 than in 2022."

The most congested day of 2023 was a Friday: on September 29th, many drivers used the extended weekend until German Unity Day on Tuesday, October 3rd for a short vacation, according to the ADAC.

There were almost as many traffic jams on the highways in May on the Friday before the Whitsun weekend and on the Wednesday before Ascension Day.

READ ALSO: The German cities with the worst traffic

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Until the summer, the number of hours of congestion continued to increase, from 20,000 in January to 43,500 in the months of July, August and September. From October onwards, the number of hours which drivers sat in traffic fell again.

In total, the ADAC registered 691 traffic jams of at least 20 kilometers in length on the Autobahn last year. The longest, at 56 kilometers, occurred in January after the onset of winter on the A61 before the Nahetal Junction in Rhineland-Palatinate.

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Did the €49 transport ticket have an impact?

According to the ADAC, the hope that the introduction of the €49 Deutschlandticket in May 2023 would encourage commuters to switch from car to bus and train and that there would be fewer traffic jams in the mornings and afternoons has not been fulfilled.

Upwards of 11 million people subscribed to the ticket in 2023, according to a study by the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV). However, 45 percent of these were already public transport users who switched from existing subscriptions.

Only around four percent of buyers had not previously used public transport.

READ ALSO: Germany hopes to help climate with €49 ticket

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