Jef Poskanzer (jef) Fri 16 Oct 09 09:47
One idea I've had for driver's ed is to offer bicycling classes in high schools. The traffic laws are the same for bicycling and driving, and routefinding is similar, so this would be a less dangerous way of getting experience with those aspects of driving. I'd make the bicycle cource be a prerequisite for taking driver's ed, which in California is already a pre-req for getting a learner's permit and an early license. And maybe some fraction of teens would just stick with the bike.
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Fri 16 Oct 09 10:08
Here in Bermuda, there is a belief that using indicators to signal your intention is a sign of weakness.
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Fri 16 Oct 09 10:09
Meanwhile, in Indonesia a right turn indicator means, "I'm coming through", while left means, "Be my guest". If it rains really heavily everyone lights up their hazard flashers.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 16 Oct 09 12:23
Tom, what sorts of responses did you get to th hardback edition?
Lisa Harris (lrph) Fri 16 Oct 09 15:02
(I just picked up the book today, so I'll read chapter one for my answer) /
Travis Bickle has left the building. (divinea) Sat 17 Oct 09 10:17
Following this with interest, Tom. I would like to comment on snowplow accidents: I live in snow country, and while I think most of these crashes are caused by inattentive or overconfident drivers in whiteout or blowing snow situations- which, near Lake Michigan, are usually linked with icy roads, as well- you also have to understand that the plows often travel at a high rate of speed. On some of the country roads around here, a plow can cross your path, out of nowhere, going like a bat out of hell, and you can be creeping along and still hit them. In other situations, a sudden blast of wind can make a plow, or any vehicle, disappear completely until you're on top of them.
Alan Turner (arturner) Sat 17 Oct 09 13:26
Tom, I have to say that yours is the most depressing book that I have ever read. That's not to say that you're wrong. I spent a good part of my career designing roads and streets, always thinking things like "If I put this intersection at least 530 feet from the next one, at a speed limit of 35 MPH, with these sight lines there will be no problem." All of that time spent on design, and one might as well spend it on designing different drivers, for all the good it does! At least I'm not designing streets anymore, or I'd be _really_ depressed!
Pat Flaherty (patf) Sat 17 Oct 09 21:08
> the more expensive the vehicle the more respect you get. A German friend told me of a great expression they use in Germany. As regards, say, high-end Mercedes and BMWs. When you buy such cars they apparently come with 'eingebaude Vorfahrt' (sp ?). Built-in right-of-way. Traffic is actually a very interesting topic and maybe I should get this book (I confess: I haven't even read what's written about the book on Amazon yet). I think clearly in the US (and apparently Germany as well) traffic - or rather the way people drive - is used as a proxy for the greater social competition. Of course this is incorrect and damaging. Some people are just in a hurry. Oftentimes that's because they have very long commutes. People talked about (socially) transportation _less_ during the 6 years I lived in Tokyo than when I returned here to the Bay Area - it seems to be a very frequent topic of conversation (another net social loss). And that did include not just the foreigners in Japan but Japanese as well because I speak Japanese. I think I preferred riding the Tokyo subway rather than driving any distance on the Bay Area's roads. However my commute time is less than 15 minutes and when we bought a home the proximity to work was one of the reasons for which my wife and I chose that home that we did. Of course we were lucky that most of the communities in the immediate area have good schools.
Pat Flaherty (patf) Sat 17 Oct 09 21:13
Sure enough I got the German spelling wrong. The correct spelling is eingebaute Vorfahrt and the expression seems to be well represented in a google search. The first hit was from Die Zeit, a major German publication. http://www.zeit.de/1999/37/199937.iaa_brabus_.xml (although this is in German).
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sat 17 Oct 09 22:05
Tom, have you heard anything about any towns or cities using your book to help make decisions?
David Wilson (dlwilson) Sun 18 Oct 09 19:34
Hi Tom Driving is learned behavior so it makes sense that it is culturally based. The discussion about different standards in different countries is an obvious form of it. What do you think about regional differences in driving behavior in the US? I live in Minnesota but I learned to drive in New Jersey. People talk about "minnesota nice" as a behavior etiquette. That it is. But it is also a screen for passive-aggressive behavior. This comes out in the way people drive. I've been accused of aggressive driving but it is considered "normal" in Jersey. The evidence I give comes from the Coen Brothers' film Fargo.
Tom Vanderbilt (tomvanderbilt) Mon 19 Oct 09 05:58
Sharon, I'd be a bit worried if towns were using the book to make decisions, as it's not meant to be a design manual and I'm not a professional planner/engineer! Though it has certainly got back to me where the book was brandished at a governmental meeting, ranging from the U.S. DOT to the U.K.'s Ministry of Transport. This is both exciting and surprising to me, given that I had written the book basically as a way to learn for myself some of what I thought were the larger mysteries of the road. I suppose that people involved in a technical professional, with its set of orthodoxies and political disputes, might find it interesting or at least cathartic to read someone with no particular stake to look at the whole field. Which leads to Alan's point about designing roads. I suppose any designer always has the issue of not being able to control how their product will be used, or if their design will be appreciated. But the thing that strikes me about traffic engineers is that of all the engineering professions, it seems unique in that its practitioners must account for the human factor. It's one thing to build a bridge with a maximum load rating, but quite another to design the lanes on that bridge so that drivers drive on them at a particular speed or in a particular fashion. Behavioral adaptation is everywhere in driving; in fact, I think it tends to happen the moment we enter the car. Suddenly, our sense of time, distance, proximity to others, relationship to the local landscape all subtly and fundamentally altered. One last note about video games, NASCAR, and TV perceptions of driving. I think we're all familiar with the shot of two people talking inside a car, and how they seem to go on for many seconds without glancing back at the road. IN real life, of course, lane position begins to deteriorate after just a few seconds. But a larger phenomenon is car advertising; a Canadian study looked at a whole slew of car ads and found that a majority depicted "unsafe" driving acts. Most showed male drivers, and SUV/trucks had a higher percentage of these acts. Obviously, this is marketing how many ads show the actual conditions, creeping along in congested traffic while your kids are screaming in the back? (to note one scenario). But should the car companies be held to some kind of standard, the way liquor advertising can't show the product being consumed, or something? I.e., to not glorify the aggressive use of a quite deadly instrument?
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Mon 19 Oct 09 07:48
Interesting to hear that it's been brandished at government meetings. :) I've virtually brandished it a couple of times when people were talking about making roads safer for bikes.
Honk if you like living (robertflink) Mon 19 Oct 09 15:15
>I.e., to not glorify the aggressive use of a quite deadly instrument?< Any thoughts on the idea of aggression coming out somewhere if not in the car? I'm thinking how fans of different teams mingle with little violence in the US compared with some other countries. Another example is suicide bombing in cultures with strict religious controls. BTW, I find the idea of driving as anything but a survival matter to be very scary. The idea that what you drive and how you drive it as an aspect of self-actualization gives me the willys.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Mon 19 Oct 09 16:02
As opposed to a Jeep, I assume.
Michael C. Berch (mcb) Tue 20 Oct 09 01:38
!!! > The idea that what you drive and how you drive it as an > aspect of self-actualization gives me the willys. Clearly no one here appears to be a fan of the British television program TOP GEAR.
Unsafe at any speed (robertflink) Tue 20 Oct 09 07:50
Haven't seen it. The web site appears to show driving on a track. Is this the idea? I have no problem with people driving fast and even killing themselves on some special facility away from the public roads. I may even be willing to subsidize such facilities as a measure of self-defense.
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Tue 20 Oct 09 09:07
Top Gear run timed laps on their track with a professional racing driver to compare cars they are road testing (fastest is best) and to test the skill of minor celebrities (in a standard cheapo sedan). Another standard Top Gear segment is to concoct some sort of race (eg between high end sports car and railway travel). This petrol head favourite can be seen on BBC America.
Michael C. Berch (mcb) Tue 20 Oct 09 22:37
Many of TOP GEAR's regular features take place on their track, while others take place on the highways, from the UK to the Continent, Japan, and North America. But fundamentally what the show is about is the pleasure of driving and of well-made, well-performing cars at all price levels, and yes, driving as self-actualization.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Wed 21 Oct 09 06:02
Something that fascinated me about the book was just how much sheer information was in it. How'd you find all that stuff, and how did you end up organizing it, and how did you keep track of it all?
The need for speed (robertflink) Wed 21 Oct 09 07:30
The term "performance" may have a number of connotations when applied to cars (and the people who own them). Could these include environmental and other "impacts"? BTW, I need work harder to get into this "driving as pleasure" mindset. I have some friends with that persuasion and they don't seem to be too destructive or vain.
Tom Vanderbilt (tomvanderbilt) Wed 21 Oct 09 10:11
Sharon, On the information front, there really was no shortage, in part because of the complexity of all the questions and in the end, there was so much I had to leave off the table, because the publisher wasn't convinced the way I might have been with going to the marketplace with a 600-page book titled 'Traffic.' But what struck me was that it was almost this secret kind of literature, out there in endless studies, journal articles, compiled texts, that didn't often seem to filter out to the general public. I didn't even really know that people studied something like driving, as commonplace as it is. But when you visit something like the Transportation Research Board meeting in DC, and you see the 13,000 + conference attendees, all working in various transportation issues, you realize the scope of the endeavor. ON some other points, I won't deny that driving itself can have its physical pleasures. I'd hate to think I really derived anything like self-actualization from something so minor, as I really don't take any great stock in being defined by my car. On this, I'm Canadian in nature: One survey study I looked at found that Canadians were more likely to think of their car as an appliance, a way to get from a to b; whereas Americans were more likely to report that their car was an extension of themselves and their personality. And I do watch 'Top Gear' I particularly liked the episode that paired different modes of transport against one another in a race and London, and the cycle topped the car. A brief posting here, but I'm in transition in Houston airport; but please keep those comments and questions a comin.'
Dashing throught the snow (robertflink) Wed 21 Oct 09 12:58
>One survey study I looked at found that Canadians were more likely to think of their car as an appliance, a way to get from a to b; whereas Americans were more likely to report that their car was an extension of themselves and their personality.< Could be proximity to the border but I recall a similar attitude the UP of Michigan. Could also be winter driving, the great leveler.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Wed 21 Oct 09 21:05
#47: so are you going to do a Director's Cut? :) Or another book?
Tom Vanderbilt (tomvanderbilt) Thu 22 Oct 09 11:11
A director's cut, a lovely idea! I can already envision the new chapters: "HOV Lanes: Good or Bad?" "How to Navigate Toll Plazas." "The Secret Lives of Crash Test Dummies." And there would definitely have to be a chapter on Lagos, Nigeria actually, an interesting new book I just got the galleys for has precisely that (Ted Conover's The Routes of Man). This book began so accidentally that I've been waiting for another 'accident' to get the next book underway. But I haven't come up with anything sufficiently compelling or, to be honest, saleable, always a consideration but increasingly so in these days of economic contraction among publishers. I'm a bit torn between doing something somewhat in the vein of Traffic, a logical progression, and something absolutely divergent. The meter is definitely running, however, and I'm keen to get started on another big, all-consuming project soon enough. Anyone have any ideas?
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