“Traffic gets about as close to the heart of modern existence as any book could get . . . Engagingly written, meticulously researched, endlessly interesting and informative, [it] is one of those rare books that comes out of the depths of nowhere.”
–Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World
“A surprising, enlightening look at the psychology of human beings behind the steering wheels . . . Jammed with delicious you’ve-got-to-be-kidding moments . . . My solution to the nation’s vehicular woes would be to make this good book required reading for anyone applying for a driver’s license.”
–Mary Roach, The New York Times Book Review
“Smart and comprehensive . . . A shrewd tour of the much-experienced but little-understood world of driving . . . A balanced and instructive discussion on how to improve our policies toward the inexorable car . . . Vanderbilt’s book is likely to remain relevant well into the new century.”
–Edward L. Glaeser, The New Republic
“A delightful tour through the mysteries and manners of driving.”–Tony Dokoupil, Newsweek
“A breezy . . . well-researched . . . examination of the strange interaction of humanity and multiton metal boxes that can roar along at . . . 60 m.p.h. or sit for hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic.”
–Patrick T. Reardon, Chicago Tribune
“Traffic will definitely change the way you think about driving, which also means changing the way you think about being human.”
–Michael Agger, Slate
“[A] joyride in the often surprising landscape of traffic science and psychology.”
–Abigail Tucker, Smithsonian Magazine
"Tom Vanderbilt is one of our best and most interesting writers, with an extraordinary knack for looking at everyday life and explaining, in wonderful and entertaining detail, how it really works. That's never been more true than with Traffic, where he takes a subject that we all deal with (and worry about), and lets us see it through new eyes. In the process, he helps us understand better not just the highway, but the world. It doesn't matter whether you drive or take the bus--you're going to want to read this book."
--James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds
"A great, deep, multidisciplinary investigation of the dynamics and the psychology of traffic jams. It is fun to read. Anyone who spends more than 19 minutes a day in traffic should read this book."
--Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author The Black Swan
"Fascinating, illuminating, and endlessly entertaining as well. Vanderbilt shows how a sophisticated understanding of human behavior can illuminate one of the modern world's most basic and most mysterious endeavors. You'll learn a lot; and the life you save may be your own."
--Cass R. Sunstein, coauthor of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness
"Everyone who drives--and many people who don't--should read this book. It is a psychology book, a popular science book, and a how-to-save-your-life manual, all rolled into one. I found it gripping and fascinating from the very beginning to the very end."
--Tyler Cowen, author of Discover Your Inner Economist
“Fascinating, surprising . . . Vanderbilt’s book will be a revelation not just to us drivers but also, one might guess, to our policy makers.”
–Alan Moores, The Seattle Times
“A well-written, important book that should hold the interest of anyone who drives a car.”
–Dennis Lythgoe, Deseret News
“An engaging, sociable tour of all things driving-related.”
–Joel Rice, The Tennessean
“Manages to be downright fun.”
–Dennis Simanaitis, Road and Track
“Traffic changes the way you think about driving. For that reason alone, it deserves your attention.”
–Dan Danbom, Rocky Mountain News
“Intriguing . . . Somehow manages to plunge far more deeply than one would imagine a meditation on travel possibly could. Perhaps without intending to, Vanderbilt has narrowed in on the central question of our time . . . His book asks us to consider how we can persuade human beings to behave more cooperatively than selfishly.”
–Elaine Margolin, The Denver Post
“Vanderbilt investigates . . . complexities with zeal. Surprising details abound.”
–The New Yorker
"Fresh and timely . . . Vanderbilt investigates how human nature has shaped traffic, and vice versa, finally answering drivers' most familiar and frustrating questions."
"Fluently written and oddly entertaining, full of points to ponder while stuck at the on-ramp meter or an endless red light."
"This may be the most insightful and comprehensive study ever done of driving behavior and how it reveals truths about the types of people we are."
"Tom Vanderbilt uncovers a raft of counterintuitive facts about what happens when we get behind the wheel, and why."
"Fascinating . . . Could not come at a better time."
“Brisk . . . Smart . . . Delivers a wealth of automotive insights both curious and counterintuitive.”
“A literate, sobering look at our roadways that explains why the other lane is moving faster and why you should never drive at 1 p.m. on Saturday.”
“An engaging, informative, psychologically savvy account of the conscious and unconscious assumptions of individual drivers–and the variations in ‘car culture’ around the world . . . Full of fascinating facts and provocative propositions.”
–Glenn Altschuler, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“An engrossing tour through the neuroscience of highway illusions, the psychology of late merging, and other existential driving dilemmas.”
–Michael Mason, Discover
“Funny . . . Enlightening . . . Want to spend 286 pages having a good time and learning a whole lot about something you do every day for an hour or two? Buy this book.”
–Ben Wear, Austin American-Statesman
“I’m very glad I read this book . . . It tells you a lot about traffic. But of course it does more than this. It’s really a book about human nature.”
–William Leith, Evening Standard (UK)
“A richly extended metaphor for the challenge of organising competing human needs and imperfect human judgment into harmonious coexistence.”
–Rafael Behr, The Guardian (UK)
“Automobile traffic is one of the most studied phenomena in advanced societies . . . Mr. Vanderbilt has mastered all of it. Arresting facts appear on every page.”
–Christopher Caldwell, Financial Times (UK)
Tom Vanderbilt's Trafficengagingly written, meticulously researched, endlessly interesting and informativeis one of those rare books that comes out of the depths of nowhere. Its subjects are the road and the people who drive it, which is to say Traffic gets about as close to the heart of modern existence as any book could get, yet what's truly astonishing is that no one else has done it, at least not on the scale that Vanderbilt has achieved. We've had road novels (On the Road) and road movies ("Two for the Road") and road songs ("On the Road Again"), but nonfiction studies of "why we drive the way we do and what it says about us"to borrow Vanderbilt's subtitlehave been almost entirely limited to dry, impenetrable engineering and psychological treatises…Read it and you're likely to come away a better driver, more cautious and more alert. Certainly I like to think it's made me a better driver, but then as Vanderbilt says, we all think we're better drivers than we really are.
The Washington Post
Traffic jams are not, by and large, caused by flaws in road design but by flaws in human nature. While this is bad news for driversthere's not much to be done about human natureit is good news for readers of Tom Vanderbilt's new book. 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…My solution to the nation's vehicular woes would be to make this good book required reading for anyone applying for a driver's license. Though you could then be sure that some percentage of car crashes in America would be caused by people trying to skim Traffic while stuck in a bottleneck on their way to the D.M.V.
The New York Times
Vanderbilt looks at the psychology of driving and the many false impressions drivers use to operate their vehicles. He also looks at other subjects potentially unconsidered by the average driver, such as traffic control centers and smart technology that improves driving decisions. David Slavin's diverse application of tone and personality make him a great choice for this production. Vanderbilt's writing is accessible, but it changes in tone depending on the context (ranging from life-and-death issues of accidents to reflecting about traffic controllers protesting during the Academy Awards). Slavin balances these shifting thoughts and maintains an overall energetic personality throughout the production. The big challenge of this audiobook is how much drivers who listen to audiobooks will adjust their habits while listening to it. A Knopf hardcover. (Reviews, May 19).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Everyone gets stuck in traffic at some point, and here freelance journalist Vanderbilt (Survival City: Adventures Among the Ruins of Atomic America) provides a fascinating look at the whys and hows of the traffic we confront on a daily basis. Deeply researched and rich in facts, his sociological study of driving habits and traffic patterns could not come at a better time. Rising fuel costs, deferred road maintenance and construction, increasing populations, and growing congestion mean that traffic is not going to get better. Among the findings here are that traffic increases by one third when parents ferry kids to school; most car crashes happen on clear, sunny days; men honk more than women; and highways can handle more cars at 55 mph than at 80 mph. In researching the book, Vanderbilt consulted government documents, behavioral journals, census and demographic data, engineering studies, and local, state, and federal transportation reports. He even provides a comparative study of traffic in other countries. 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. Even pedestrians are affected by traffic and should read this book. Recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ4/1/08.]
Eric C. Shoaf
Traffic emerges from chaos, and chaos emerges from traffic. There's too much of both, and entirely too little honesty-a quality that has much to do with travail on the roads. Say what? Well, writes I.D. and Print editor Vanderbilt (Survival City: Adventures Among the Ruins of Atomic America, 2002), the nations of the world that are the least corrupt "are also the safest places in the world to drive," such that Sweden "practically oozes safety." France, once a place of much roadside carnage, got safer once it installed speed cameras and started doing Breathalyzer tests, while New Zealand has eminently safe roads. Americans aren't quite so lucky, on either the corruption or the traffic-safety front, but at least we beat out Russia, which accounts for some two-thirds of all road deaths in Europe, and China, a veritable slaughterhouse. Vanderbilt's book is a trove of such information, but also a fine study in what works and what does not. What does not work, for instance, is speeding along the interstate, weaving in and out of traffic, and popping a cork when a slow vehicle gets in the way. As he notes, in experiments along the New Jersey Turnpike, that great bane of drivers, the weaving, honking speedster arrives at his (almost always his) destination only a few minutes ahead of the driver who maintains an even rate of speed and stays in one lane. What does work, as their designers intended, are on-ramp meters: Having sussed out "the basic parameters of how highways perform" and determined that the key factor is volume, those designers put in place a metering system that in some places has doubled highway productivity. And why are highways mowed ten-odd yards on either side? Because mostcars come to rest within that zone once they've flown off the road-though, one General Motors experiment indicates, a "crash-proof" highway would have 100-foot clear zones, which would be particularly useful come the evening rush hour, which is twice as deadly as the morning one. Fluently written and oddly entertaining, full of points to ponder while stuck at the on-ramp meter or an endless red light. Agent: Zoe Pagnamenta/PFD New York. First printing of 150,000