Is there anything that is more a part of our everyday lives than driving? Even if you're a die-hard pedestrian or cyclist living in the city without even owning a car, you still have to deal with them every day. So isn't about time that someone write a book about driving? Luckily someone has: Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us).
Even better, it is a good book, though one that just may scare the daylights out of you. I just finished it and I'm already finding myself analyzing my own driving and becoming more aware of the strange things we do when we drive. Did you know that traffic circles (aka roundabouts, or a rotary) is safer than a traditional intersection? But the reason it is safer is because it feels MORE dangerous, so we pay more attention. It makes sense – you probably wouldn't think twice about driving through a four-way intersection while chatting on a cell phone, but going into a traffic circle? "Sorry, I gotta go." Or at least that what you SHOULD be doing.
Basically what it comes down to is this: driving is hard. Like, ridiculously, amazingly hard. None of us should be doing it. There isn't a computer smart enough to handle all the things that need to be done while driving, and here we are, doing it while talking on a phone, sipping coffee, and flipping through radio stations. We should all be dead, I tell you – DEAD!
Not only did the book appeal to my inner geek of wanting to know how things work, but it also provided some interesting insight into various cultures. I had no idea that Belgium has such a disregard for authority (fight the power you crazy Belgians!) or that more people get hurt crossing streets LEGALLY in New York City than people who get hurt crossing illegally.
The book does throw a lot of statistics and numbers at you – you'll never remember them all, unless you practice reading the Yellow Pages for fun, but it doesn't matter. Vanderbilt's writing allows you to understand what he's trying to get at without having to parse out what the percentages and ratios mean – he's done the work for you and it makes for a fascinating read.
Just don't do it while driving!!!