AskDefine | Define pileup

Dictionary Definition

pileup n : multiple collisions of vehicles

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Extensive Definition

A multi-vehicle collision (colloquially known as a pile-up) is a road traffic accident involving many vehicles. Generally occurring on freeways, they are one of the deadliest form of traffic accidents.
Pile-ups generally occur in low-visibility conditions, like rain or fog. In such conditions drivers on highways often drive closer together than they should. If one car develops a problem, those behind it cannot stop in time, hitting it. As cars are forced into other lanes and oncoming traffic more vehicles become involved. The most disastrous pile-ups have involved more than a hundred vehicles. (In such conditions, 'rear fog lamps' should be used. See 'Defensive driving').
They are particularly deadly as the solid mass of crumpled vehicles makes escape difficult. A fire in one part of the accident can quickly spread to spilled fuel and cover the entire crash area. Vehicles in a pile up are often hit multiple times, increasing risk of injury to the passenger. Moreover cars are often spun during an accident and are subsequently hit from the side, increasing risk of injury or death. Some vehicle occupants choose to get out of their vehicles during a pile up, making them vulnerable to oncoming vehicles. Pile-ups can also overburden local firefighting, ambulance, and police services making quick rescues more difficult.
The large scale of these accidents can close important routes for several days. The destruction and intense heat of fires can also damage roadways, particularly by melting and burning the asphalt. Bridge structures can also be weakened by the heat. A pileup inside a tunnel is by far the worst, as there is little means for escape in older ones, and the unvented heat may even cause the concrete lining to come apart.
Determining the cause of such accidents is also difficult for investigators and it is often impossible to tell if negligence caused the crash.
Note: the term pile-up is used in particle physics to refer to a situation where a particle detector is affected by several events at the same time.

Major pileups

  • 17 March 2005: near Helsinki, Finland, around 300 cars crashed on highways leading to the capital, 3 deaths and 60 injuries. Visibility was very poor due to heavy snowfall and a week of clear weather had given drivers a false impression of safety.
  • 9 January 2008: Four people were killed and as many as 38 injured early Wednesday in a major pileup on Interstate 4 in north central Florida involving 70 vehicles, as fog mixed with smoke from a controlled fire that reached out-of-control proportions combined to make it almost impossible for motorists to see.
  • 20 January 2008: More than 100 vehicles crashed into each other on Sunday on Highway 400 near Toronto due to bad weather conditions.
  • 25 March 2008: A near 60 vehicle pile-up in heavy snow on Austria's main east-west highway causes one death with six injuries.

In popular culture

Burnout 2: Point Of Impact,Burnout 3:Takedown and Burnout Revenge crash modes requires player to create a massive pile-up as possible to earn medals.


pileup in German: Massenkarambolage
pileup in French: Carambolage
pileup in Dutch: Kettingbotsing

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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