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Posted by spragujs on March 9, 2012

Traffic cover artI finished with Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt recently.  The book details many different aspects of driving and how our reactions affect us and our driving.  We all tend to think of driving as really, a pretty easy thing to do.  Some (at least in the US) go so far as to think it a right as opposed to a privilege.  However, think of it more like Vanderbilt does.  “[Driving] is actually an incredibly complex and demanding task: We are navigating through a legal system, we are becoming social actors in a spontaneous setting, we are processing a bewildering amount of information, we are constantly making predictions and calculations and on-the-fly judgements of risk and reward, and we’re engaging in a huge amount of sensory and cognitive activity–the full scope of which scientists are just beginning to understand.”  Not really so easy after all.  (Go human brains!)  In spite of all this, we’re not really good at multi-tasking, hence the problems people have when trying to eat, do their make up, adjust their stereos, mess around with their phones, etc. while driving.

This book is about traffic with a heavy side of psychology thrown in.  Many facts you might not believe, and many more you likely will and just haven’t thought about them yet.  I even learned a bit about different cultures after reading about how various places drive.  I found all of it quite fascinating.

I know at the very least Traffic made me think more about the mistakes I make while driving and to pay more attention to what I’m doing.  I have to admit though:  no matter how much I realize I shouldn’t, I’ll still keep listening to my audiobooks.  It’s what keeps me awake (particularly on long trips), so that’s important too!  😉  And, because of the epilogue, now I want to take a driving course.  I’m curious to know if I’m any good at driving, or if I’m like everyone else and just think I’m pretty good at it.  I’m no race driver, don’t get me wrong, I’m just wondering about the daily stuff.

I recommend reading this novel if you’re interested in psychology or traffic at all.  From the reviews I read, some folks didn’t get what they wanted to out of this book, but I’d say, based on the title and subtitle, it was exactly what I expected.  I do have to note, in case anyone follows this recommendation:  the last 1/4 of the book is acknowledgements, notes, and index so don’t be surprised like I was!  I also just realized that the notes are listed by page number, which means that the text of the book is cleaner, but I didn’t even know the notes were there till I got to the epilogue (and wondered what the last 116 pages were for), so I never looked any of those up (nor would I really have known when to look).  Still, I suspect many people won’t be reading the book for the notes, so it’s likely this was the best way to go when publishing.  In any case, enjoy!  And if you’re interested in more info check out the How We Drive blog.


2 Responses to “Traffic”

  1. ~ap~ said

    It’s interesting that it discusses the psychology of driving. I ought to suggest it to Rachel to use as one of her content books for Biology IV next year, since she gets to choose her own books and since she’s studying psychology now! Plus, I’d get the bonus of having a better educated young driver. :o)

    Also, I find it amusing that some reviewers “didn’t get what they wanted” out of the book, and it makes me wonder what they were expecting from that title!

    *psst* I’ve also always wanted to take a driving course, but I mainly want to learn bad-ass-awesome driving skillz. ;o)

  2. spragujs said

    That would definitely be a good thing! I could send you the book if you think she’d want to read it.

    I don’t know (or remember) either. I read some reviews, but now I can’t remember what their reasoning was (if they ever explained). I do remember one person thought the author just gathered up facts to support his own theories, and was irritated by that. Perhaps I’m not knowledgeable enough to know any better. ::shrug::

    Well, yeah, bad-ass-awesome driving skillz would definitely be cool too! Lol!

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