Why does the other lane always seem to be moving faster? When two lanes are forced to merge into one, is it better for you — and everyone else — to merge early, or merge late? Are roundabouts really safer than conventional intersections? Is the road a microcosm of society or an autonomous republic that functions according to its own set of rules? Why does traffic behave differently in differently places? Are large trucks the highway menace they seem? Do men and women actually act differently on the road?
These are the sorts of questions I set out to answer, nearly three years ago, when I first started the book that would become: “Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us). I wanted to take an omnipresent everyday activity and environment, one so familiar we seem to stop asking questions of it, and peer into the dynamics of what was really happening, and why. In the process of research, which took me from my own neighborhood streets to the world’s most advanced driving simulator in Iowa, from the traffic bunkers of L.A. to the chaotic, organic motorbike flow of Hanoi, from Italy’s autostrada to Germany’s autobahn, I found many of my own preconceptions upended, my longstanding rules of thumb shattered.
The book will be released by Alfred A. Knopf on July 29, 2008, and shortly after that by Penguin in the U.K., and then in a number of other countries and languages shortly after that. It was difficult to actually finish because each day seemed to bring some thought, some new finding that I thought deserved discussion.
That’s why I’m adding to the bustling traffic of the internet with yet another forum. There were too many things still to say, too many arguments unresolved, too many ongoing developments to report, too many curiosities that could not be contained within the already capacious confines of the book.
Because the internet thrives on traffic, all the good websites with “traffic” in the title were taken. So, for the purposes of this blog, I’ve decided to go with the vaguely Trollope-ish “How We Drive,” a phrase that I hope encompasses both the actual process of driving and the larger societal questions of our automobile-driven lives. I hope you enjoy the ride…
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