- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Penguin (6 Aug. 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141027398
- ISBN-13: 978-0141027395
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 91,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us) Paperback – 6 Aug 2009
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"A surprising, enlightening look at the psychology of human beings behind the steering wheels.... Jammed with delicious you've-got-to-be kidding moments.... Required reading for anyone applying for a driver's license."--"The New York Times Book Review" "Fascinating, surprising . . . Vanderbilt's book will be a revelation not just to us drivers but also, one might guess, to our policy makers.""-"Alan Moores, "The Seattle Times" "Traffic gets about as close to the heart of modern existence as any book could get . . . Engagingly written, meticulously researched, endlessly interesting and informative, [it] is one of those rare books that comes out of the depths of nowhere.""-Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World" "An engaging, informative, psychologically savvy account of the conscious and unconscious assumptions of individual drivers.... Full of fascinating facts and provocative propositions.""--Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" """An engrossing tour through the neuroscience of highway illusions, the psychology of late merging, and other existential driving dilemmas.""--Discover" ""Manages to be downright fun."""--Road and Track" "Smart and comprehensive . . . A shrewd tour of the much-experienced but little-understood world of driving . . . A balanced and instructive discussion on how to improve our policies toward the inexorable car . . . Vanderbilt's book is likely to remain relevant well into the new century.""-"Edward L. Glaeser, T"he New Republic" "A delightful tour through the mysteries and manners of driving.""-Tony Dokoupil, Newsweek" "A breezy . . . well-researched . . . examination of the strange interaction ofhumanity and multiton metal boxes that can roar along at . . . 60 m.p.h. or sit for hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic.""-"Patrick T. Reardon, "Chicago Tribune" "Traffic will definitely change the way you think about driving, which also means changing the way you think about being human."-Michael Agger," Slate" "[A] joyride in the often surprising landscape of traffic science and psychology.""-"Abigail Tucker, "Smithsonian Magazine" """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. That's never been more true than with Traffic, where he takes a subject that we all deal with (and worry about), and lets us see it through new eyes. In the process, he helps us understand better not just the highway, but the world. 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" "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 The Black Swan" "Fascinating, illuminating, and endlessly entertaining as well. Vanderbilt shows how a sophisticated understanding of human behavior can illuminate one of the modern world's most basic and most mysterious endeavors. You'll learn a lot; and the life you save may be your own.""--Cass R. Sunstein, coauthor of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness" "Everyone who drives--and manypeople 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" "A well-written, important book that should hold the interest of anyone who drives a car.""-Dennis Lythgoe, Deseret News" "An engaging, sociable tour of all things driving-related.""-Joel Rice, The Tennessean" "Traffic changes the way you think about driving. For that reason alone, it deserves your attention."-Dan Danbom, Rocky Mountain News"Intriguing . . . Somehow manages to plunge far more deeply than one would imagine a meditation on travel possibly could. Perhaps without intending to, Vanderbilt has narrowed in on the central question of our time . . . His book asks us to consider how we can persuade human beings to behave more cooperatively than selfishly."-Elaine Margolin," The Denver Post" ""Vanderbilt investigates . . . complexities with zeal. Surprising details abound."""-The New Yorker" ""Fresh and timely . . . Vanderbilt investigates how human nature has shaped traffic, and vice versa, finally answering drivers' most familiar and frustrating questions."""--Publishers Weekly" ""Fluently written and oddly entertaining, full of points to ponder while stuck at the on-ramp meter or an endless red light."""--Kirkus" ""This may be the most insightful and comprehensive study ever done of driving behavior and how it reveals truths about the types of people we are."""--Booklist" ""Tom Vanderbilt uncovers a raft of counterintuitive factsabout what happens when we get behind the wheel, and why."""--BusinessWeek" ""Fascinating . . . Could not come at a better time."""--Library Journal" ""Brisk . . . Smart . . . Delivers a wealth of automotive insights both curious and counterintuitive."""-Details" ""A literate, sobering look at our roadways that explains why the other lane is moving faster and why you should never drive at 1 p.m. on Saturday."""--GQ" ""An engrossing tour through the neuroscience of highway illusions, the psychology of late merging, and other existential driving dilemmas."""-Michael Mason, Discover" ""Funny . . . Enlightening . . . Want to spend 286 pages having a good time and learning a whole lot about something you do every day for an hour or two? Buy this book."""-Ben Wear, Austin American-Statesman" ""I'm very glad I read this book . . . It tells you a lot about traffic. But of course it does more than this. It's really a book about human nature."""-William Leith, Evening Standard (UK)" ""A richly extended metaphor for the challenge of organising competing human needs and imperfect human judgment into harmonious coexistence."""-Rafael Behr, The Guardian (UK)" ""Automobile traffic is one of the most studied phenomena in advanced societies . . . Mr. Vanderbilt has mastered all of it. Arresting facts appear on every page."""-Christopher Caldwell, Financial Times (UK)"
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is full of insights into driving habits exhibited by many if not most drivers. It has a lot to say about the way we drive and the reasons we do. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Peter J. Holmes
Awesome book! Really insightful and fun to read at the same time.Published 7 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 12 months ago by Graham Middleton
A very unusual 'driving' book, it approaches the subject from a very different angle, but I found it very interesting and we'll written. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Mr. I. M. Shelton
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