Traffic : Why We Drive The Way We Do (And What It Says About Us) / Tom Vanderbilt

Driving is something most of us do on a daily basis without giving it much thought.  The automobile has long played a major part in American life; we define ourselves by what we drive and how we do so.  But there is more going on behind the wheel than even the most experienced driver knows.  In this well-researched book, Vanderbilt is not just writing about road safety, he is showing how our minds work and how we interact with each other while hurtling down the roadway.  It is a complex subject where physical, psychological, and technical factors intersect.  The conclusions presented here are based on numerous studies and will surprise many.  He shows why most of us are worse drivers than we care to admit.  Safety protections often cause people to be less attentive (and thus less safe).  While roundabouts feel dangerous and chaotic to the average American, they are much safer than intersections and help to reduce congestion to boot.  Speed and fatigue are the two biggest contributing factors to fatal crashes, but the inherent risks of human nature also play a big part.  As Vanderbilt points out, since the 1960s less than 5,000 people have been killed by terrorism in this country. In contrast, each year the number of people killed in car crashes in the United States tops 40,000.  Although we find it acceptable to sacrifice civil liberties to curtail the threat of terrorism, there is strong resistance to traffic measures designed to reduce traffic fatalities.  This book should be required reading for anyone who drives a car.  Even the most seasoned driver will benefit for taking it out for a spin.  Thankfully, while educational, Vanderbilt makes sure it is also an entertaining ride.

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