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Traffic” (by Tom Vanderbilt): An alternate title for the book might be “Idiots.”


Traffic, by Tom Vanderbilt: “…An alternate title for the book might be “Idiots” (from the NYT review of Traffic).

See also this recent news story:

Use turn signal? Why?: $75 TICKET: It’s an all-too-common attitude, and it can cost you, cops say,” Chicago Sun-Times (online), August 11, 2008, by Mary Wisniewski.


Failure of other drivers to use a turn signal is one of the most annoying things on the road, and it may be on the rise, according to the State Police. The officers who patrol the state’s highways have been giving out more warnings for improper signal use in the last 2½ years….

Failure to use a signal can be a “very serious and deadly mistake,” said Ley. “Officers know this can lead to a serious accident.”

So why don’t people signal? To paraphrase Tom Vanderbilt, author of the book Traffic, why are drivers willing to tell you their kid is an honor student at Knucklehead Academy, but they don’t want to tell you they’re changing lanes?

Danek says some people are afraid that if they signal to change lanes, the car in the next lane will speed up to block their car.

He said it’s also a matter of habit — like buckling your seat belt. Some people aren’t taught properly and don’t get into the habit of doing it.

He noted that turn signals didn’t even become standard in cars until the 1960s — people who wanted to signal used to have to stick their left arm out the window.

A 2006 survey by Response Insurance, a national car insurer, found that 57 percent of American drivers don’t signal when changing lanes. Men are less likely to signal than women, and drivers under 25 are less likely to signal than older drivers. Their reasons were a bit scary:

• • 42 percent said they didn’t have time,
• • 23 percent said they were lazy,
• • 17 percent said they don’t because they forget to turn it off,
• • 12 percent said they changed lanes too frequently to bother,
• • 11 percent said it was not important,
• • 8 percent said they don’t because other drivers don’t. And, most disturbing of all,
• • 7 percent skipped the signal to “add excitement” to their trip.

Danek says he teaches his students to signal because it’s safer to warn people what you’re doing, and anything that makes driving safer is worthwhile.

But Danek also teaches them to be prepared if someone doesn’t signal….” (link to full story)

Google [Traffic Tom Vanderbilt] for reviews and commentary on the book, Traffic.

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