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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and Informative
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...
Published on 21 Oct 2008 by Adrian Booth

versus
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 thinking about what any of it meant.

I just became too annoyed with it to go any further.
Published 5 months ago by T. J. Stickland


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and Informative, 21 Oct 2008
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This review is from: Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us) (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
By 
martinpick (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us) (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 "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us) (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? The answer may surprise you if you are a patient person who tries to cooperate with others.

You'll also get an unexpected tip about when to do when in a skid . . . after you steer in the direction you are skidding. This might save your life.

Those who have never read the statistics about the dangerous of driving while talking on cell phones, changing radio stations, and fiddling with other devices may decide they want to be more cautious. Driving under the influence and time-of-day driving risks will also interest most drivers.

Mr. Vanderbilt visits different traffic areas around the world and explains how things work in what seems like chaos to the American visitor. I was only disappointed that he didn't talk about the effect of potholes on traffic and accidents in areas where the roads freeze.

My only complaint was that the book contained more information than I really wanted to learn on the topic of each chapter, and much of that was engineering jargon (which I can live without). A briefer, breezier read would have been more fun: Than I could have felt like I was driving in a red sports convertible with the top down on an interesting high-speed road with little traffic while surrounded by pleasant views.
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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
By 
J. adams "John Adams" (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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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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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful and fascinating, 25 Aug 2008
By 
Jeremy Colton "Biology does not have all the ... (Granite City, IL United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us) (Hardcover)
As a typical American who drives to work, traffic is a huge part of my life. Why we do what we do (road rage; careless driving; passive-aggressive driving) has fascinated me for years. Vanderbilt is a journalist who went to the experts rather than trying to answer the questions himself. Some of the answers go all the way back to our evolution. Some answers seem intuitively right, if difficult to prove; many seem counter-intuitive, and some have no answers yet.

What puts this book above and beyond what I ordinarily read is how useful it is. I honestly feel I'm a safer driver for having read it and may live longer to read more great books from these insights. I can't recommend it highly enough for anyone who cycles, walks in the vicinity of cars, or drives.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 23 Mar 2014
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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. A really recommend this book for anyone who drives.
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5.0 out of 5 stars British Roundabouts trump American Intersections, 4 Mar 2014
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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 2.5 fighter, having been catapulted from a carrier deck, afterburnered by an expert from the navigator's seat vertically to the edge of space, plummeting to sea level to streak inverted beneath the Golden Gate bridge, rolling looping and stall-turning seamlessly through or past every nook and cranny of the subject. Time travel is thrown in: ancient Romans had our problems, too!

The thorough reference notes finish on page 383 and there is a short but concise index.

Reference 1 for the `Epilogue: Driving Lessons' warmed my heart: `The Isaac Newton School of Driving: Physics and your Car".

I've written in a popular driving instructor magazine on this, like John Adams banging on but few listening. They're too frustrated sitting in in a stop-go tailback of their own making. They've never even watched Bill Beatty or Andrew Marr cracking the 'Phantom Blockage' on YouTube. Car radio may ease the pain but Vanterbilt points to the cures.

Once I took top prize at a dry and dusty technical conference of pump manufacturers:

I knew nothing of the subjects, but had been asked to write and prepare on behalf of a colleague, mugging up then presenting his work in a form intelligible to me, and attractive to a diverse audience. Tom Vanderbilt has done this for Traffic.

Is it moving objects, or moving people? Traffic engineers view pedestrians as annoying grit in the machine; but `a pedestrian is someone who has just parked their car'. Do engineers abandon their humanity when they step into the office? Should we control or cajole traffic? That's why it is all so interesting.

When you race through our neighbourhood at 40mph or more , please remember that WE LIVE HERE.

On p 204 the traffic world shouts at the social one. That's the schizophrenia of modern society.

Hamilton-Baillie is still crying in the wilderness but his time will come. Monderman died the week before a Newsnight programme promoting his ideals. Whatever happened to 'Love thy neighbour as thyself?' Locked out of the car and left behind.

Vanderbilt achieved in three years the task of a lifetime for lesser mortals. It is so well written I feel I could trust him with any subject and immensely enjoy the result. It is a learned tome of worldwide research in a popular style.

True to his mission, Vanderbilt does not speculate; but we can:

Should a city traffic light controller be prosecuted for streamlining his wife's journey home from the shops? Is this technically feasible? Does telling commuters the whole truth about the traffic situation help or hinder optimum flow? What IS 'optimum flow' - your bicycle to work or my employers' 40-tonner speeding food to a distant supermarket? Why do traffic models fail in Beijing? Is the Delhi definition of 'defensive driving' the best, and if so, why?

Now we're moving from the technical possibilities into moral debatables ......

Many times I was out of my depth, but in the areas I did recognise - Risk analysis, driving and driving instruction, engineering design, safety, lifetime risk, driving overseas, psychology, local driving cultures to name a few - he hits the spot precisely with pithy perceptions and neat numbers. Those topics still over my head he has propelled me to explore further.

I can't recall why I ordered this paperback; maybe an oblique reference from reading about `shared space' - which is rearing its head in our locality as a 29m Cycle Superhighway threatens to snake across Leeds. But I soon had an eerie feeling of assimilating `Traffic' before - it meshed with so much of my own thinking and experience that perhaps I had skimmed a library copy in 2008, then forgotten it. Or maybe `Great minds think alike' ..... ? It challenged more of my prejudices than it confirmed.

`Risk isn't Rocket Science; it's more complicated than that.' Hitting a forest deer is safer than swerving into a nearby tree is what I teach my learners. Vanderbilt put himself through drivers' finishing school to bring us that truth and several other survival skills.

Don't panic! LOOK where you need to put the car in an emergency; that will help you to a softer landing. Pre-knowledge is the key.

The Guardian cover puff is enough to put anyone off, implying it is for nerds, petrolheads and cocktail party bores. Jeremy Clarkson might treat it as a joke, but if you use, regulate, control or pay for road space in any capacity, you too need this book.

Sudden death or life-changing injury is only a joke in video games. It can happen to anyone on the road, anytime, however careful they are.
Even a single phrase one day might literally save your life, certainly your wallet, and maybe our votes.

However, since USA and UK are `two nations divided by a common language', British readers need frequently to translate `left turn' into `right turn' (or `lane') to appreciate fully the safety implications.

After the Bible, the Highway Code, and (maybe) Shakespeare, Vanderbilt is a 'must have'.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Over researched, 1 Feb 2014
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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 thinking about what any of it meant.

I just became too annoyed with it to go any further.
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5.0 out of 5 stars standard of driving in UK, 20 Oct 2013
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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!!
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1.0 out of 5 stars No useful information whatsoever., 23 Jun 2013
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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 40000 per year average miles coverage in business.
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Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us)
Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us) by Tom Vanderbilt (Hardcover - 28 Aug 2008)
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