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Hi

Would you say that traffic jams and girdlocks are synonymous?

The protests around the city caused severe traffic jams.

The protests around the city caused severe girdlocks.

Thanks,

Tom

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The streets of a city form a grid.

Some streets go east and west, others are perpendicular to them and go north and south.

At the intersections, there are traffic lights which control the flow - ideally the flow is smoothly regulated. Alternately the east/west traffic flows and the north/south traffic flows. "Gridlock" happens when cars go through a yellow light and remain in the intersection, blocking it.

The traffic flow stops completely because all the intersections get blocked by impatient drivers.

In this picture, the traffic that has a green light cannot move because the intersection is blocked. The entire grid is "frozen" or locked.


Traffic jams are much more general. They are caused by accidents or more traffic than the road was designed to handle. Jams happen on freeways or highways that have no traffic signals.

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Mr. TomThe protests around the city caused severe traffic jams.
The protests around the city caused severe gridlock.

"gridlock" is normally uncountable and not pluralised. Note spelling: "gridlock" not "girdlock".

There isn't much difference between these sentences. There could be a nit-picky difference about "jams" referring to several separate snarl-ups, and "gridlock" referring to overall paralysis.

To my mind, and also according to its derivation, "gridlock" applies only to an urban area. "traffic jam" can also be used outside urban areas.