Saturday, August 23, 2008

In a Jam

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? ... 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 underpinnings 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.
Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt sounds like essential reading and am ready to pounce on a copy of this as soon as I see it in the shops here

(You can read an extract here and Vanderbilt has a fascinating blog on the subject called How We Drive. And see also reviews of the book in the Telegraph and the New York Times. )

I have a love-hate relationship with driving. I only began to take lessons when I was in my forties after much nagging from Abu and I am so glad that I had Mr. Andy (ex-singapore army tank trainer) as my unflappable instructor. But every short journey here brings its own near-death experience and I greatly appreciated (while we're on the subject) expat David Astley's hilarious (but terrifyingly accurate) guide to driving on Malaysian roads. (Passed on by Caving Liz.)

Wonder what Vanderbilt would make of that?

(Pic from New York Times)

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