Victims of Hungarian Superstorm Use Waze for Roadside Safety


These Wazers keep on amazin' us.

When a snowy blizzard hit Hungary last weekend, temperatures dropped to record lows and snow crippled cars, with many drivers stranded in their cars overnight on the country's major highways — just look at the pic above taken by a Hungarian Wazer.

Waze's Hungarian community quickly mobilized to provide drivers with real-time traffic information. They did this both in the app itself and via the community's Facebook page, which was used as a 24/7 traffic channel.

We caught up with Peter Zsak ("wroadd"),  Hungarian Country Manager and an active leader in the community,  to learn more about what transpired and how crowdsourcing played a role in keeping drivers safe.
Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 3.43.01 PM

5,700 cars were stranded on the roads, more than 8,000 people had to take refuge in government heated buildings and more than 100,000 people lost electricity. Where were you when this storm hit?

I was at home in Szeged, in southeast Hungary. We had a 3-day weekend for a national holiday so a lot of people were travelling, including members of the Waze map editing community living in the affected areas. The storm affected the whole country, but the areas of western Hungary were hit the worst. The emergency response teams, the military, police and the firefighters worked continuously for 48 hours to help those in need, but their coordination was awful.

The biggest help came from Austria, whose government sent snow sweepers and the Austrian RedCross to help feed and keep people warm.

What role did the community play in alerting drivers of traffic conditions?

We used Feed The Waze, a tool that helps add long term road closures to the Waze map. The app and Facebook were both used to report problems and communicate with the people stuck in their cars. The community also helped find volunteers.

Two of our fellow Wazers, Szikra and SivatagiSas, were out all night on the motorways bringing hot drinks and food to all those stranded in their cars and in "safehouses". So many Wazers volunteered, not to mention those who posted their offerings (accommodation, food, etc.) in the app.

What features of Waze did you and the community use?

We mainly used the Map Chat feature to communicate.

Has anyone shared with you stories of how Waze saved them during the blizzard?

One user, Kaszast, guided his wife through the storm using information posted in Waze Map Chats, eventually leading her to the nearest "safehouse".

How would you recommend Wazers around the world deal with the next big weather crisis in their region?

Waze is a real-time solution for these events. If the local community can cooperate with the emergency response officials, the possibilities are infinite.