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Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says about Us) (Vintage) [Paperback]

Tom Vanderbilt
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

11 Aug 2009 Vintage
A New York Times Notable Book

One of the Best Books of the Year
The Washington PostThe Cleveland Plain-DealerRocky Mountain News

In this brilliant, lively, and eye-opening investigation, Tom Vanderbilt examines the perceptual limits and cognitive underpinnings that make us worse drivers than we think we are. He demonstrates why plans to protect pedestrians from cars often lead to more accidents. He uncovers who is more likely to honk at whom, and why. He explains why traffic jams form, outlines the unintended consequences of our quest for safety, and even identifies the most common mistake drivers make in parking lots. Traffic is about more than driving: it's about human nature. It will change the way we see ourselves and the world around us, and it may even make us better drivers.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 402 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books USA; 1 Reprint edition (11 Aug 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307277194
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307277190
  • Product Dimensions: 20.2 x 13.2 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,794,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

Review

'A great, deep, multidisciplinary investigation of the dynamics and the psychology of traffic jams. It is fun to read. Anyone who spends more than 19 minutes a day in traffic should read this book.' -- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan

'An important book ... a demonstration, with dozens of examples, of the counterintuitive truth about traffic' -- Sunday Times

'Everyone who drives - and many people who don't - should read this book. It is a psychology book, a popular science book, and a how-to-save-your-life manual, all rolled into one. I found it gripping and fascinating from the very beginning to the very end.'
-- Tyler Cowen, author of Discover Your Inner Economist

'Eye-opening ... full of scads of cocktail-party factoids'
-- Time

'Fascinating ... Vanderbilt humanises his subject brilliantly ... it is a pleasure to accept the role of passenger' -- Sunday Telegraph

'Fascinating, illuminating and endlessly entertaining as well. Vanderbilt shows how a sophisticated understanding of human behaviour can illuminate one of the modern world's most basic and most mysterious endeavours. You'll learn a lot; and the life you save may be your own.' -- Cass R Sunstein, co-author of Nudge

'I'm very glad I read this book ... if you read it you'll be bursting to tell people' -- Evening Standard

'Tom Vanderbilt is one of our best and most interesting writers, with an extraordinary knack for looking at everyday life and explaining, in wonderful and entertaining detail, how it really works. It doesn't matter whether you drive or take the bus - you're going to want to read this book.' -- James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds

'Tom Vanderbilt uncovers a raft of counterintuitive facts about what happens when we get behind the wheel, and why'
-- BusinessWeek --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Tom Vanderbilt writes on design, technology, science, and culture for many publications, including Wired, Slate, The London Review of Books, The Wall Street Journal, Artforum, Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine and Popular Science. He is contributing editor to award-winning design magazines I.D. and Print, contributing editor to Business Week Online, and contributing writer of the popular blog Design Observer. He is the author of two previous books: Survival City: Adventures Among the Ruins of Atomic America and The Sneaker Book. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and Informative 21 Oct 2008
Format:Hardcover
Tom Vanderbilt is a great author. He has managed to write a book about one of the most mundane, boring, simplistic topics and turn it into an exciting, interesting and informative piece of work. Every single sentence backed up with years of studies from experts in the field of traffic (yes...experts on traffic) makes for an incredibly interesting read. I won't got too much into detail but Vanderbilt cites many examples of how our eyes can easily deceive us on the road, and also talks about 'risk homeostasis' where we tend to adjust are our behaviour relative to the risks involved e.g. Wearing seatbelts = Faster driving etc. This part at the end was most interesting.

All in all, after reluctant to read it, as it was given as a present, I have learnt never to judge a book by its topic, not matter how boring or dull it may sound. It's a truly enjoyable read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read 4 Feb 2009
Format:Hardcover
Who would have thought that the bane of our lives could be so interesting? But traffic is mass human behaviour, and watching it (from the outside!) gives real insight.
"Traffic" is well written and has changed the way I drive, hopefully for the better.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reflections on Getting from Here to There 24 Sep 2008
By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
If you've ever been stuck in traffic alone (and who hasn't been?), all kinds of thoughts have occurred to you about how poorly the highways are designed, why drivers are so inconsiderate, what else you would like to be doing, and how to get out of this mess! Since cell phones have arrived, I regularly receive calls from my wife and children while they are stuck in traffic hoping that I'll have some suggestions for them. Tom Vanderbilt takes that vague reactions and tests them out.

It turns out that driving isn't so natural for humans, and we don't always do it right. While we are unhappy about what others are doing, we overestimate the quality of our own driving.

Even though it's very difficult for a machine to learn to drive effectively, humans get to the point where they drive without paying attention. There's a price to pay: Make the road too boring, and some people will fall asleep until awakened by a rumble strip or they crash into an immovable object such as a tree.

It turns out we lose a lot of our humanity when we drive on good roads at high speed. It's all about us then. Slow things down enough and surround us with easy ways to hurt other people, and we look people in the eye and act like a good neighbor.

The most amazing parts of the book explore ways that attempts by traffic engineers to make roads safer and to carry more traffic have backfired. The engineers, it seems, think we are rationally moving objects rather than people who like to drive around a little to get a change of pace in our lives.

He also tests out some basic subjects where there's wide disagreement, such as, should you merge as soon as possible when a lane is being dropped . . . or speed along in the closed lane until the last minute?
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4.0 out of 5 stars Informative and entertaining 16 Jan 2009
By Mr BD
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Although described as 416 pages, the last 220 pages are the notes and references used to research the book. It is very well researched and written in an entertaining and relaxed style.
Most of the research and examples are within the USA, but the research behind them can easily be used for the UK. It shows just how similair the driving cultures can be on both sides of the Atlantic. The research into late and early merging at roadworks is an interesting start to the book, showing how the Americans and our Highways Agency attempted to specify one method over the other, and how the motorists made their own choices much to the irritation of the engineers.
Examples are studied from all over the world. The absence of any traffic control in the Netherlands to the first attempt to introduce a Traffic Act in China.
It details research which may show what actually causes 'road rage' and why some drivers tailgate. How engineers attempt to control complicated traffic flows around major cities in different cultures and just how easy it is to make a shambles of it.
Not something I could read in one sitting, but a chapter or so at a time makes it an interesting read and gives some insight into the road behaviour of yourself and others.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this book 12 Nov 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An emotion that I had difficulty suppressing while reading this book is envy. It deals with a subject about which I have been banging on for more than three decades (Risk), and along comes this young whippersnapper who does it so much better. He has written a popular book; the consensus of other reviewers is that he has picked up a worthy subject, that most people are predisposed to find dull, and made it interesting! But beyond that he has also produced a book that should become a standard reference work for everyone concerned about road safety.
Much of what he has to say is unconventional wisdom - chapter 7 is entitled "Why Dangerous Roads are Safer". It is counterintuitive until you read it, and then it becomes common sense.
He has read, digested and explained an impressive body of evidence: the book has 90 pages of notes. It will be used to settle lots of pub arguments, but also, hopefully, to inform and transform the thinking of researchers, educators and practitioners in the field of road safety.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
A fascinating read about the psychology of driving. As a trainee ADI this book has been invaluable in giving me some insight into how drivers think and behave. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mrs L H Jordan
5.0 out of 5 stars British Roundabouts trump American Intersections
You need this book.

My feelings on landing at page 286 were of breathlessly unbuckling my 6-point safety harness in the front seat of a Mach 2. Read more
Published 6 months ago by NewPud
3.0 out of 5 stars Over researched
I made it to about half way through this book before stopping. it appeared to me that the author would just keep jamming more and more research into the book but without really... Read more
Published 7 months ago by T. J. Stickland
5.0 out of 5 stars standard of driving in UK
the standards of driving in the UK are at an all time low despite confirmation from
DSA and Essex police that motorists are being educated!!
Published 11 months ago by John W Pepper
1.0 out of 5 stars No useful information whatsoever.
Full of useless American theories and statistics, I could find no comparison to any form of driving habits demonstrated by the average driver I have encounter in my 45 years and... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Mr L H Welch
3.0 out of 5 stars Kindle Edition - no TOC
Good book - plenty of useful content for research but why do Kindle editions always seem to come poorly formatted and a trifle lacking? Read more
Published on 2 Sep 2011 by S. Keeling
5.0 out of 5 stars Traffic: You will never look at a traffic jam in the same way again.
In this book, Tom Vanderbilt looks at the subject of traffic from an eclectic range of perspectives. Read more
Published on 19 April 2010 by Jennifer Tipping
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Researched and Interesting
A well researched and thorough book that reads like a good article in "Wired" but book length! A little US centric but manages worldwide coverage. Read more
Published on 12 Dec 2009 by Sir Furboy
4.0 out of 5 stars Plenty of interesting facts on the subject of traffic but no synthesis
First of all I did enjoy the book. It is very well written and nice to read - assuming you have even the slightest of interests in the topic. Read more
Published on 8 Nov 2009 by AK
2.0 out of 5 stars Traffic - an unending stream of facts
Traffic was recommended to me by a colleague and got raving reviews, as per the quotes on its cover. However, I only made it to page 80 or so and got tired of it. Read more
Published on 1 Nov 2009 by D. Haven
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