Saturday, September 19, 2009

Traffic -- by Tom Vanderbilt

This book promised to explore "why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us)."  I was a little skeptical about how a book of this length about traffic could remain interesting and my kids even teased me about getting another "geek book."  I was pleasantly surprised, however.  In college, I actually studied queueing theory (from a mathematical perspective).  For me then, I found the discussion in this book on the psychology of queues (a traffic jam is after all just a type of queue) quite interesting.  If, like me, you've ever wondered about things like why we drive on the right side of the road and some countries drive on the left side of the road, what traffic is like outside of America, and what is the impact of new automotive safety technology on death and injury rates, then this book will offer you some insight.  This book addresses how drivers interact (and don't interact) with their vehicles, other drivers, bikers, and pedestrians.  The book talks about intersections, roundabouts, road markings, signs (and the lack of signs), late and early merging, ramp metering, traffic enforcement, and much more.  In the vein of a Malcolm Gladwell book, this book references and cites a wide range of interesting facts and studies in an organized and coherent way.  I enjoyed this book so much, that I even checked out the author's blog on this subject: in search of more information on the topic.

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