Monday, August 11, 2008

Jordan's Theory Vindicated

Last Tuesday I wrote a mediocre blog post about traffic in which I shared my buddy Jordan's theory about Wuss Drivers being the primary cause of traffic.

Five days later I get the New York Times Book Review, and on the front cover is a review of a book called Traffic, which proves Jordan's theory (sort of). Here is the opening paragraph:

"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 drivers — there's not much to be done about human nature — it 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...An alternate title for the book might be Idiots."

Jordan's main point, that traffic is more a result of driving psychology rather than the myriad of other things we tend to blame (congestion, tolls, accidents, construction) is on the money. But Vanderbilt attributes things more to idiocy than wussiness.

The most interesting part of the review (and presumably, the book) is that more accidents occur in "safe" driving conditions than "dangerous" ones, because that is when drivers get lazy and stop paying attention. In fact, engineers sometimes build curves into roads just to keep drivers on the ball.

I can't imagine reading a whole book about traffic, but it's definitely worth reading the review.

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