Since he is such a better writer than me (hence he gets paid for it and I don’t), I am going to paste Tony Bizjak’s article from the Sacramento Bee today:
Today, we unveil five “truths” you should know about driving.*
(*Which you may refuse to believe.)
Our inspiration is the new book “Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us).”
We talked last week with author Tom Vanderbilt. He’s like The Bee’s Back-seat Driver, only smarter.
Truth No. 1: We’re not as good a driver as we think we are.
Vanderbilt thinks it’s a bit funny and a bit sad that in every survey most drivers say they are above average.
But, technically, only half of us can be above average. That means plenty are poor drivers and don’t know it.
Why?We’re good at ignoring clues: If we get a ticket, it’s because thepolice obviously are trying to make a quota. If our passenger yells”look out,” he’s just a nervous Nellie. If a driver honks at us, he’san incompetent who can’t handle the road.
Truth No. 2: We are not so nice when we’re in our cars.
Carsdehumanize us. Consider: Would we cut in the supermarket line if we seesomeone not close enough to the person ahead? Would we mouth “Watch it,knucklehead” to a guy who brushes by us to find a seat in our row atthe movie theater?
In our cars, we look at other people’s rearends a lot, not their eyes. We can’t bond, or even communicate. Becausewe probably will never see them again, there is no payback for beingnice. We even decide things about them based on the vehicle they drive.SUV driver? Self-centered egotist. Prius driver? Self-righteousdo-gooder.
Truth No. 3: You’re not in a traffic jam; you are the traffic jam.
Vanderbiltdoesn’t believe traffic jams are our fault. But the way we drive intraffic – braking, speeding, tailgating, switching lanes, refusing tosignal and basically doing whatever works best for us at the moment –makes traffic worse. That leads to the next truth.
Truth No. 4: The other lane isn’t really going faster.
Itjust looks that way because we focus more on the cars passing us thanon the cars we pass. In congestion, lanes move individually likeaccordions, spreading out and speeding up, then scrunching up andslowing down. By jumping lanes, we don’t get where we are going muchfaster, but we make the accordion worse for drivers behind us.
Truth No. 5: Traffic flows like … rice! (So slow down, you may get there faster.)
Ifyou pour rice too fast into a funnel, grains clog up and come outslowly. But if you pour the rice slowly, the grains actually getthrough the funnel faster. There’s less bunching up. That is thereasoning behind freeway ramp metering. If you sequence vehicles comingonto freeways, the overall traffic speed is improved.
You stillwith us? There’s plenty more in Vanderbilt’s book. Next week, trafficwilling, we’ll offer five counterintuitive truths about road dangers,including why it may be good to get into a (small) crash.”
I highly recommend you read Tony weekly in the Bee.