Traffic

4 07 2010

Just finished reading this wonderful book by Tom Vanderbilt. Never before had I an inkling of what a complex thing this traffic is. I was surprised to find how much effort goes into planning the road systems, traffic rules and the like.  Traffic engineering isn’t really as simple as I ignorantly thought it to be.

Tom has provided as much a comprehensive view as possible, covering many aspects such as the psychology, culture, technology, risk management and more.  There is just so much information in this book that it can be a little overwhelming sometimes. Nevertheless, reading the book and learning many new things had been a fun experience for me.

The author made it clear that it’s the human factors which are primarily responsible for all problems related to traffic more than anything else. If only we are cooperative like ants….

His observation that how bad we are at assessing risk and acting in time to mitigate it made me reflect upon my own driving.  It was interesting to read about how the culture of people and the economics of the country determine the traffic dynamics. Another (not so) surprising factor, I learned about, that affects the traffic dynamics is the level of corruption prevailing in a particular country. I was also startled to know that more people die on roads than due to terrorism or war in any year.

The author says that there are just too many factors that could have contributed to a crash(fatal or non-fatal) – time of the day, day of the week, vehicle, driver demographics, presence/absence of passenger , passenger demographics, road systems, speed limits, driving under influence, using cell phone while driving and more –  and trying to isolate one seems almost impossible. But almost always, it’s the speed that kills.

Traffic is a brilliantly written book, which I recommend to anyone who has ever been more than slightly curious about this “crazy” traffic we all seem to have accepted as part of our complex lives.

I’m sure Tom’s blog, How We Drive, will be as fun and interesting as his book (perhaps even more, with feedback and opinions from the readers), though I haven’t yet explored it myself.

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26 12 2010
My reading in 2010 « Peek Inside My Mind

[…] Time by Mark Haddon, The Secret of Laughter by Susha Guppy (Magical Tales from Classical Persia), Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt (Non-fiction), and Kane & Abel by Jeffrey […]

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