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Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us) Hardcover – 28 Aug 2008

4.0 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (28 Aug. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713999314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713999310
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.8 x 24.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 492,382 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

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.



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Top Customer Reviews

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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By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 Sept. 2008
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A very unusual 'driving' book, it approaches the subject from a very different angle, but I found it very interesting and we'll written. It gives an insight in to the variety of research, thought processes and methods use by planners and authorities that directly affect drivers whilst negotiating their way along the world's roads. You'll still be stuck in traffic jams and slow moving traffic, but reading this book might make you think of the bigger picture when you are.
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Format: 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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A book written by a journalist who is not specialized himself in its subject can be very informative but also fragmented and one-sided. 'Traffic' is all of those. It gives a wide overview of human behaviour in traffic and some of its backgrounds, but it still remains limited.
An example is Vanderbilt's enthousiasm concerning the Dutch (Friesian, to be exact) concept of 'Shared Space': the streets and squares without traffic signs and kerbs, which are shared by all road users, dealing with each other by establishing eye contact. This is certainly a sympathetic concept but it still awaits a large-scale evaluation and it has not yet been investigated if for instance elderly people still venture in such an unclear situation that 'looks' so dangerous. But Vanderbilt doesn't mention important things like that.
It gets even worse when he deals with the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving. There is overwhelming evidence that this (hand held or handsfree, it doesn't matter) is a very dangerous thing to do - incomparably more dangerous than chatting with a passenger. Still Vanderbilt interviewed maybe the only researcher in the world who thinks otherwise...
I couldn't help wondering what Bill Bryson would have made of this subject.
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