At the start of the second season of The Walking Dead, the group is driving down the interstate with a destination of Ft. Benning. They then have to stop because of a grid lock of parked cars blocking the RV from continuing through. This sets a scene for the next several episodes.

All the cars are either abandoned or have a corpse sitting in the seats. And I think it was either Andrea or Carol making a solemn comment that that it's a graveyard.

But the passengers are not zombies. And many of the cars with corpses are still intact.

So what did everyone on the road die from while sitting in their cars?

  • 1
    I'm actually curious as to why they didn't turn into walkers if they died of dehydration. At the end of part two of season two we discovered they're all infected with the virus while even alive. So why didn't the dead rise?
    – user6098
    May 1, 2012 at 15:05
  • As explained in Sunpech's answer with the quote from Robert Kirkman, any unturned dead in the cars had received brain trauma/damage preventing them from turning.
    – phantom42
    May 1, 2012 at 15:21
  • This sort of thing (corpses/zombies trapped in cars) is a staple of zombie movies although there's surprisingly not a trope about it. I guess that's why there's no sensible explanation for it
    – user11295
    Jan 31, 2013 at 14:30
  • If you die of dehydration, doesn't that mess up your brain? It's possible that because of how they died, their brains were already messed up enough to prevent turning.
    – acolyte
    Jan 31, 2013 at 17:57

6 Answers 6


Here's an official answer from Robert Kirkman:

  • Severe brain trauma from car crash pileup.
  • Another brain damage that killed them.
  • Already zombies that got killed somehow.

From The Walking Dead's Glen Mazzara Addresses Frequently Asked Questions From the Fans:

... in Issue 95 of the comic. Robert says, "Any non zombie corpses you saw on the highway either suffered severe brain trauma in a car crash that resulted in that pileup, or had another brain damaging event that killed them. They could have even been zombies in the car for awhile -- until someone came along and killed them."

  • 2
    If they're locked in their cars with unbroken windows, it's much more likely for them to die of dehydration or exposure than starvation - starvation takes weeks, dehydration takes days. Exposure can take anywhere from hours to days.
    – Jeff
    Jan 11, 2012 at 12:44
  • 2
    I've updated my answer to an official answer from Robert Kirkman.
    – spong
    Mar 30, 2012 at 21:24
  • 5
    +1 For being the Word of God. However, God here is slightly confused: there is no possibility of some of them already being zombies that someone later killed, because they didn't have visible head wounds (like a bullet hole). Someone couldn't have "come along and killed them" with a knife to the heart, for example -- you cannot kill zombies that way. So no, they must have been non-zombified people.
    – Andres F.
    Jan 31, 2013 at 13:53

I believe they were trapped in traffic when the walkers caught up with them. Some were killed in their seats. There were quite a few empty seats/cars, so some of those most likely either ran off, or were attacked, turned, and left the vehicles to join the other packs of roaming walkers. Others were likely eaten to the point where reanimation wasn't possible (the proportion of brains eaten would have been higher due to walkers having limited areas to bite from having to come in through windows).

The support for the theory of walker attack is that during one scene T-Dog looks in the back of a car and is disgusted to find a blood-splattered infant car seat, apparently indicating that the infant was ripped from the chair and eaten.

The corpses that were intact, behind unbroken/closed windows most likely either died prior to the attack, or stayed motionless/quiet enough to escape Walker detection, but then found themselves trapped until they died of dehydration/exposure.

  • 5
    Nothing in the TWD show makes me blink. But as a father, I can't get that "car-seat" scene out of my mind. They didn't have to say anything - you just knew something awful happened.
    – selbie
    Jan 13, 2012 at 2:27

I am not sure if I just imagined this, but it seems like in the early shows I got the idea that "the govt" or someone gassed people-in particular the ones on the highway. Probably before they realized they were all infected. I got this from the flash back where they are all out on the highway- it seems like there was helicopters flying over... Maybe I just imagined that???

The dehydration theory doesn't make sense to me. (like this is real life!)Just sitting in the car until they dehydrated and died?

I don't recall any that we saw in the cars being turned. Obviously some people got out or opened the door and probably were eaten-as the empty car seat implied, but it doesn't seem like walkers are able to open a door. yes walkers would swarm the car, overpower it;but some of those cars were untouched.


One theory could be that they turned into walkers while still buckled into their seats, and didn't have the capacity to unbuckle themselves, so they starved to death.

It's been a while since I saw those episodes, so I don't remember exact details, like if the corpses where all buckled up. Also, I don't know if the zombies can starve. I can't recall any evidence of zombies dying from starvation, then again, they need to keep feeding the ones in the barn, so I don't know.

Also, in this case, why did they all suddenly turn while sitting calmly in their seats, still buckled in?

  • 2
    Did they need to, or just think they needed to?
    – Jeff
    Jan 11, 2012 at 19:30
  • Eating for walkers is instint; they do not need it to survive (letter hacks #14) , as they no longer digest (#111). When a human doesn't eat, the body starts breaking down fat, muscle then finally organs. This is my theory. The walkers have slower decomposition than a dead body (#7 & 11, 121), hinting perhaps the virus is rationing the food. They die off eventually however; they'd run out. Each lasts a different time, which makes sense since some people have more fat/muscle/healthier organs. Feb 11, 2015 at 13:59

My assumption was they did turn but couldn't get out of the vehicle, and their brains cooked from the heat of the sun.

  • Brains fried from the sun is the best explanation I've heard. Good enough for me! Oct 30, 2019 at 19:47

one of the interesting elements of any zombie show is it's lack of backstory...particularly TWD. It makes it more captivating to have questions unanswered. From what I remember there aren't all that many corpses in the cars so it's very plausable to have head trama or to have been killed by passengers or passersby.

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