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)

Hardback

By (author) Tom Vanderbilt

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  • Publisher: Knopf Canada
  • Format: Hardback | 416 pages
  • Dimensions: 165mm x 231mm x 36mm | 748g
  • Publication date: 29 July 2008
  • ISBN 10: 0307397726
  • ISBN 13: 9780307397720

Product description

Would you be surprised that road rage can be good for society? Or that most crashes happen on sunny, dry days? That our minds can trick us into thinking the next lane is moving faster? Or that you can gauge a nation's driving behavior by its levels of corruption? These are only a few of the remarkable dynamics that Tom Vanderbilt explores in this fascinating tour through the mysteries of the road.Based on exhaustive research and interviews with driving experts and traffic officials around the globe, Traffic gets under the hood of the everyday activity of driving to uncover the surprisingly complex web of physical, psychological, and technical factors that explain how traffic works, why we drive the way we do, and what our driving says about us. Vanderbilt examines the perceptual limits and cognitive under-pinnings 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 shows how roundabouts, which can feel dangerous and chaotic, actually make roads safer---and reduce traffic in the bargain. 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.The car has long been a central part of American life; whether we see it as a symbol of freedom or a symptom of sprawl, we define ourselves, by what and how we drive. As Vanderbilt shows, driving is a provocatively revealing prism for examining how our minds work and the ways in which we interact with one another. Ultimately, Traffic is about more than driving: it's about human nature. This book will change the way we see ourselves and the world aroud us. And who knows? It may even make us better drivers.

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Author information

Tom Vanderbilt writes about design, technology, science and culture for Wired, Slate, The New York Times and other publications. He lives in Brooklyn and drives a 2001 Volvo V40.

Review quote

“If any of you have teenagers who are about to get their license — I urge you to urge them to read Vanderbilt.” — The Daily Telegraph “A terrific investigation into why we drive the way we do, and why many of our beliefs about driving are just wrong.” — The Globe and Mail “A surprising, enlightening look at the psychology of human beings behind the steering wheels. . . . Traffic is jammed with these delicious you’ve-got-to-be-kidding moments.” — The New York Times Book Review "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 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 "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 facts about what happens when we get behind the wheel, and why." — BusinessWeek "Fascinating . . . Could not come at a better time." — Library Journal