Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us) Hardcover – 28 Aug 2008
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'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'
'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'
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
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.
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?Read more ›
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.
I just became too annoyed with it to go any further.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Awesome book! Really insightful and fun to read at the same time.Published 3 months ago by Yury Zammit
An astonishing in depth study of stuff we all take for granted. Interesting (even if you aren't that interested).Published 8 months ago by Graham Middleton
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 morePublished on 23 Mar. 2014 by Mrs L H Jordan
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
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!!
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 morePublished on 23 Jun. 2013 by Mr L H Welch
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