Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)

Paperback - 2009
Average Rating:
Rate this:
A New York Times Notable Book

One of the Best Books of the Year
The Washington Post • The Cleveland Plain-Dealer • Rocky Mountain News

In this brilliant, lively, and eye-opening investigation, Tom 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 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. Traffic is about more than driving: it's about human nature. It will change the way we see ourselves and the world around us, and it may even make us better drivers.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 2009.
Edition: 1st Vintage Books ed.
ISBN: 9780307277190
Characteristics: viii, 402 p. ; 21 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

SPPL_János Mar 19, 2018

Vanderbilt peers under the hood of an activity so commonplace we barely think about it: the act of driving. And what he finds is utterly fascinating. It turns out that new safety features inspire us to drive more dangerously, most crashes happen on sunny days to sober drivers, and it's better to wait until the last minute to merge. These are just a few tidbits from this easily readable parade of revelations. Vanderbilt distills a huge amount of research from all over the world, even visiting the Netherlands and India to experience their traffic firsthand. If you liked "Freakonomics", or if you've ever driven a car, you're sure to find yourself caught up in "Traffic".

JohnK_KCMO Dec 05, 2016

This book should be required reading for all driver's ed courses. It radically changed the way I drive and helped me better understand how traffic works and flows. I truly believe this book made me safer behind the wheel.

Oct 14, 2014

I am very surprised at how much this book has improved my understanding of the entire world. From pedestrian traffic and packed elevators to traffic jams and mob mentality.

Its written in the popular "Gladwell" style, so a more technical reader would find it slow.

If nothing else, I no longer rage when I'm stuck in traffic. And that's wonderful.

Nov 29, 2010

I expected to enjoy Traffic quite a bit - as a person with a psychology degree who loves to drive, I really looked forward to some interesting insights into human behavior behind the wheel. However, I only read about 60 pages into the book before I put it down.

One element I disliked was the narrative voice. Much of the book is written in the first person plural, and many of the sentence structures are awkward. To wit: "So whether we're cocky, compensating for feeling fearful, or just plain clueless, the roads are filled with a majority of above-average drivers (particularly men), each of whom seems intent on maintaining their sense of above-averageness."

While I do like the evidence provided for some twists on conventional wisdom (for example, that cell phone use while driving is not significantly worse than any of a hundred other ways drivers distract themselves), I was left unsatisifed by the explanations in the chapter "Why Does the Other Lane Always Seem Faster?" While the book is clearly carefully researched and the author enjoys the material, Traffic just doesn't ever get up to speed.

Feb 20, 2010

Interesting book. I definitely think about it often while I'm driving.
(It's not as long as it looks, about 100 pages are acknowledgements.)

Oct 06, 2008

Very good book for all drivers; Ministry of Transport should read it too.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Subject Headings


Find it at CPL

To Top