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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Review: Traffic

Tom Vanderblit addresses a problem as old as the first cities --- traffic. Each chapter of this book (Kindle edition) is relatively independent, and addresses just one or two topics, making this an easy read for those who are frequently interrupted. Topics covered include: social interaction on the road, and why bad drivers never get better.

One of the most fascinating points the book makes is that most of us never get feedback about minor carelessness or infringement --- that's because most of our weaknesses don't cause accidents most of the time. So if you're a bad driver, there's no feedback telling you that you're a bad driver, so you just get more and more reckless and worse and worse until you finally crash.

Another interesting segment of the book is the section on traffic calming --- it turns out that things like bumps and traffic islands don't do a lot of good, but making the street clearly different from an inter-city highway changes things dramatically.

There's also another section on varying culture's approach to traffic. For instance, Americans happily accept that 30000 people will get killed on US roads every year, 10 times that of the September 11th terrorist attacks, yet everyone seems to think that there's nothing you can do about it. The opposite approach is Sweden, which at only 60 deaths a year, wants to reduce it to zero.

Even stuff I knew about, like Risk Compensation is covered well and the book is in general well written enough that I was always happy to read "just one more chapter before going to bed."

Recommended for both entertainment and edification.

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