Nicholas Karpuk's Reviews > Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do

Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt
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's review
Sep 30, 2008

really liked it
Recommended to Nicholas by: Boing Boing
Recommended for: Sociology Buffs, Aggressive Drivers
Read in October, 2008

You suck at driving.

That's the message I walked away from with this book. And it was a message that made me sit up and pay attention. Non-fiction is something I read sparingly. Something about long spans of data makes my mind drift off, so I'll realize I've read an entire page without actually absorbing anything. The fact that this book hooked me was rather surprising. A big part of it is the fact that Vanderbilt keeps the topics so pertinent to the nature of how we actually drive. It's an entire novel that seems to be addressing how you, yes YOU drive.

The entire thing is chocked full of data indicating that safe, efficient vehicular transportation involves reasoning counter-intuitive to how most people handle their time spent on the road.

It points out that roundabouts are statistically vastly safer than intersections, which is annoying to anyone whose dealt with the wacky things. It indicates that safety features and excessive street signs are either worthless or lull us into dangerous over confidence. It observes that driving is a massively complex act with an amazing number of points of failure that we treat as a casual, forgettable part of our day.

There were so many interesting facts in this book that I felt like I should be taking notes. At some point I'll probably have to reread this book just to pick up on the finer points I missed.

My only complaint is that Vanderbilt often points out a name given to a phenomenon, then never references it again. He'll say something like "This is what we call the 'Black Swan' effect." The "Black Swan" effect was never brought back into the conversation. Don't try to make me remember specialized terms if it's not relevant to the rest of the discussion! It seems more like he mentions the terms because they amuse him.

Otherwise, a highly readable book with a value that can't be overlooked in our vehicularly choked age.
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Reading Progress

10/16/2008 page 230
10/05/2016 marked as: read
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message 1: by Colin (new)

Colin McKay Miller Bah roundabouts! They work in the U.K., but not in the King Soopers' parking lot.

That's what we call the red vulture effect.

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