I’ve been reading a very interesting and surprisingly accessible-but-academic blog lately about traffic and our behaviors. The blog is called “How we drive” and it is by a man named Tom Vanderbilt, who wrote a book for which I’m like one billionth on the wait list at the library.

The description of the book might explain why the wait list is so long, as well as why I find his blog so fascinating:

Would you be surprised that road rage can be good for society? Or that most crashes happen on sunny, dry days? That our minds can trick us into thinking the next lane is moving faster? Or that you can gauge a nation’s driving behavior by its levels of corruption? These are only a few of the remarkable dynamics that Tom Vanderbilt explores in this fascinating tour through the mysteries of the road.

Based on exhaustive research and interviews with driving experts and traffic officials around the globe, Traffic gets under the hood of the everyday activity of driving to uncover the surprisingly complex web of physical, psychological, and technical factors that explain how traffic works, why we drive the way we do, and what our driving says about us. Vanderbilt examines the perceptual limits and cognitive underpinnings that make us worse drivers than we think we are. He demonstrates why plans to protect pedestrians from cars often lead to more accidents. He shows how roundabouts, which can feel dangerous and chaotic, actually make roads safer—and reduce traffic in the bargain. He uncovers who is more likely to honk at whom, and why. He explains why traffic jams form, outlines the unintended consequences of our quest for safety, and even identifies the most common mistake drivers make in parking lots.

The car has long been a central part of American life; whether we see it as a symbol of freedom or a symptom of sprawl, we define ourselves by what and how we drive. As Vanderbilt shows, driving is a provocatively revealing prism for examining how our minds work and the ways in which we interact with one another. Ultimately, Traffic is about more than driving: it’s about human nature. This book will change the way we see ourselves and the world around us. And who knows? It may even make us better drivers.

He explores the topic from many directions, and he doesn’t let himself be limited by the “conventional wisdom” that is generally also the “unsupported-by-any-actual-facts-or-research wisdom”.

Like, the ideas we have on traffic lights. What if there were none? We immediately start talking about how it would be dangerous and chaos would ensue, but is that true? Why do we think that? And if that is true, why has traffic improved and accidents decreased in some towns in europe that have done away with traffic lights in select places?

I find it fascinating, at least partially because Tom does such a good job in presenting the topic in interesting ways.

For anyone who drives, as well as everyone else, I highly recommend checking out Tom’s blog.