(Book Review) Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do

Image taken from Google Books

We have all heard it and will likely continue to hear about it: “We Filipinos are bad drivers…no, we are the worst.” “If you have driven in the Philippines, you can drive anywhere in the world.” These and similar other statements about driving in the Philippines have made us stereotype ourselves and in effect made most of us think that the rest of the world drive in an orderly fashion than we do. But wait, this could not be entirely true at all.

If the author Tom Vanderbilt is to be believed, there a lot others out there who are worse than us and our perennial bad traffic flow – and yes, believe it or not, perceived by many as where traffic laws are fully enforced, the US is included. According to his book Traffic, Why We Drive the Way We Do, bad drivers can be found allover the globe and continue to contribute to road congestion, road rage, and accidents, not to mention stress, just to name a few ill effects of the growing volume of cars and other vehicles that are present at one time in one place.

I got my copy of Tom’s book only after two years since the day I learned about its release and it was only because it was on sale in National Bookstore by half its original price. But sooner I realized that the P300 plus I paid for it is a real steal because the 400-page paperback has a lot more to offer than expected. As I progress from one page to another, it stomps out that know-it-all and I-drive-a-lot-better-than-you premise I have had and which I am sure that other drivers possess as well.

Aside from rich facts about relationship (or lack thereof) of man, machine, and the road, almost each chapter of the book contains information never been made known to common drivers. For example, are you aware that car designers, other than complex mathematical algorithms, also have to deal with factors such human psychology and pop culture to cope up with the growing demand for mobility, thus the need for cars, and its effect to traffic?

“Traffic has become a way of life. The expanding cup holder, which became fully realized standard equipment only in the 1980s, is now the vital enabler of dashboard dining…Fast-food restaurants now clock as much as 70 percent of their sales at drive-through windows…” (page 16)

How would you feel if someone presents to you the idea that road signs invite people to violate it more and that by removing these will improve drivers’ behavior?

“Do traffic signs work, and are they really needed at all? This question has been raised by Hans Monderman…How foolish are we in always telling people how to behave. When you treat people like idiots, they’ll behave like that.” (page 190)

And did you know that our balikbayan relatives could be actually lying every time they smirk in the backseat and follow it up with that famous cliché “walang ganito sa states….”? Why? Because Tom Vanderbilt also exposes the US as having its own share of jaywalkers (Why New Yorkers Jaywalk (and Why they Don’t in Copenhagen: Traffic as Culture); traffic light-beating drivers; and motorcycle riders who shun helmet laws.

Released in 2008, Traffic, Why We Drive the Way We Do, contains vast insights, supported by references and citations, about traffic and therefore makes it a must read book for all of us who continue to wonder what causes bad traffic and if there are indeed solutions to it or if there is none, at least change our own perspective of how we and others drive so that we co-exist better than we do today.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (We’ll be in Nuvali later. Driving with or without the low beam.)

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Author: crisn

I'm Cris Nacionales from the Philippines.

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