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Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says about Us)

by

Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says about Us) Cover

 

Staff Pick

We've all been stuck in traffic and wondered Why me!? Tom Vanderbilt has the answers. If you are wondering why everyone in front of you is braking, or why it’s impossible to merge, he’ll tell you why. Traffic is a compulsively readable book. I could not put it down!
Recommended by Beth, Powells.com

Review-A-Day

"[A] smart and comprehensive analysis of the everyday act of driving....Tom Vanderbilt's book is a balanced and instructive discussion on how to improve our policies toward the inexorable car." Edward L. Glaeser, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Would you be surprised that road rage has beneficial social effects? Or that you can gauge a nation's driving behavior by its levels of corruption? Or that traffic reporters can tell where a storm is heading by looking at traffic patterns? 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 quotidian 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. He explores 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 enhance the safety of a road — and reduce traffic in the bargain. He reveals who is more likely to honk at whom, and why. He explains why traffic jams form, outlines the unintended consequences of our attempts to engineer safety, and even identifies the most common mistake drivers make in parking lots.

Americans have always had a passion for cars and driving. Now Traffic offers us an exceptionally rich understanding of that passion. And who knows? We might even become better drivers...

Review:

"In this lively and informative volume, Vanderbilt (Survival City) investigates how human nature has shaped traffic, and vice versa, finally answering drivers' most familiar and frustrating questions: why does the other lane always seem faster? why do added lanes seem to intensify congestion? whatever happened to signaling for turns? He interviews traffic reporters, engineers, psychologists studying human-machine interactions and radical Dutch urban planners who design intersections with no pavement markings, traffic signs or signals. Backed by an impressive array of psychological, sociological, historical, anecdotal and economic research, the author's presentation is always engaging and often sobering: his findings reveal how little attention drivers pay to the road and how frequently they misjudge crucial information. Sections on commuting distances and the amount of driving done by women versus men (guess who runs more household errands?) feel fresh and timely. Referring to traffic as 'an environment that has become so familiar we no longer see it' and a 'secret window onto the soul of a place,' Vanderbilt heightens awareness of an institution and its attendant behaviors that are all too often taken for granted." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic — engagingly written, meticulously researched, endlessly interesting and informative — is one of those rare books that comes out of the depths of nowhere....[Traffic] touches just about every imaginable base, always authoritatively." The Washington Post Book World

Review:

"It is a rare book that presumes to explain so many mysteries of human behavior, such as why 'park sharks' circle endlessly looking for a space, why rush hour seems to keep getting worse and why every other driver on the road is an idiot. Remarkably, Traffic succeeds in all three, and much more besides." Dallas Morning News

Review:

"Traffic is not a dry examination of highway engineering; it's a surprising, enlightening look at the psychology of human beings behind the steering wheels....The author is an impressively energetic researcher..." Mary Roach, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"This may be the most insightful and comprehensive study ever done of driving behavior....Definitely written for a general audience, the book is both informative and engaging." Booklist

Review:

"Anyone who drives will not be surprised overall but may be shocked at some of the analysis that is presented here for the first time — and may become a safer driver because of it." Library Journal (Starred Review)

Review:

"Fluently written and oddly entertaining, full of points to ponder while stuck at the on-ramp meter or an endless red light." Kirkus Reviews

Synopsis:

Based on exhaustive research and interviews with driving experts and traffic officials around the globe, Traffic gets under the hood of the everyday activity. Ultimately, this work is about more than driving: it's about human nature.

Synopsis:

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 nations 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 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.

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: its about human nature. This book will change the way we see ourselves and the world around us. And who knows? It may even make us better drivers.

About the Author

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.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780307264787
Author:
Vanderbilt, Tom
Publisher:
Knopf Publishing Group
Subject:
Sociology - General
Subject:
Automobile driving
Subject:
Traffic congestion
Subject:
Driver education
Subject:
Automotive - General
Subject:
Automobile driving -- Psychological aspects.
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20080731
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
416
Dimensions:
9.32x6.56x1.47 in. 1.57 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Psychology » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » Urban Studies » City Specific
History and Social Science » Sociology » Urban Studies » General
Transportation » Automotive » General
Transportation » Automotive » Repair and Maintenance

Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says about Us) Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.95 In Stock
Product details 416 pages Knopf Publishing Group - English 9780307264787 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

We've all been stuck in traffic and wondered Why me!? Tom Vanderbilt has the answers. If you are wondering why everyone in front of you is braking, or why it’s impossible to merge, he’ll tell you why. Traffic is a compulsively readable book. I could not put it down!

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In this lively and informative volume, Vanderbilt (Survival City) investigates how human nature has shaped traffic, and vice versa, finally answering drivers' most familiar and frustrating questions: why does the other lane always seem faster? why do added lanes seem to intensify congestion? whatever happened to signaling for turns? He interviews traffic reporters, engineers, psychologists studying human-machine interactions and radical Dutch urban planners who design intersections with no pavement markings, traffic signs or signals. Backed by an impressive array of psychological, sociological, historical, anecdotal and economic research, the author's presentation is always engaging and often sobering: his findings reveal how little attention drivers pay to the road and how frequently they misjudge crucial information. Sections on commuting distances and the amount of driving done by women versus men (guess who runs more household errands?) feel fresh and timely. Referring to traffic as 'an environment that has become so familiar we no longer see it' and a 'secret window onto the soul of a place,' Vanderbilt heightens awareness of an institution and its attendant behaviors that are all too often taken for granted." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "[A] smart and comprehensive analysis of the everyday act of driving....Tom Vanderbilt's book is a balanced and instructive discussion on how to improve our policies toward the inexorable car." (read the entire New Republic review)
"Review" by , "Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic — engagingly written, meticulously researched, endlessly interesting and informative — is one of those rare books that comes out of the depths of nowhere....[Traffic] touches just about every imaginable base, always authoritatively."
"Review" by , "It is a rare book that presumes to explain so many mysteries of human behavior, such as why 'park sharks' circle endlessly looking for a space, why rush hour seems to keep getting worse and why every other driver on the road is an idiot. Remarkably, Traffic succeeds in all three, and much more besides."
"Review" by , "Traffic is not a dry examination of highway engineering; it's a surprising, enlightening look at the psychology of human beings behind the steering wheels....The author is an impressively energetic researcher..."
"Review" by , "This may be the most insightful and comprehensive study ever done of driving behavior....Definitely written for a general audience, the book is both informative and engaging."
"Review" by , "Anyone who drives will not be surprised overall but may be shocked at some of the analysis that is presented here for the first time — and may become a safer driver because of it."
"Review" by , "Fluently written and oddly entertaining, full of points to ponder while stuck at the on-ramp meter or an endless red light."
"Synopsis" by , Based on exhaustive research and interviews with driving experts and traffic officials around the globe, Traffic gets under the hood of the everyday activity. Ultimately, this work is about more than driving: it's about human nature.
"Synopsis" by , 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 nations 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 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.

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: its about human nature. This book will change the way we see ourselves and the world around us. And who knows? It may even make us better drivers.

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