Archive for July 2nd, 2009

Indonesia’s Scarlet Letter for Pedestrians

One should be leery, given historical precedent, of any attempt to make a certain class of people wear markers denoting them as part of some group. From Indonesia, a place that is unsuccessfully trying to build urban transport models around the car, comes this absurdity:

An article in the new Traffic and Road Transportation Law passed by the House stated, “Handicapped pedestrians are obliged to wear special signs that can be easily recognized by other road users.” Lawmakers said the article aimed to protect handicapped pedestrians, but activists have called it discriminatory.

To put it lightly. There’s many other potential problems, like enforcment, or the issue of pedestrians not wearing the signs: Are they to be treated with any less caution?

Rather than scapegoating its most vulnerable residents in the name of “safety,” Jakarta would be better of dealing with its litany of actual traffic problems — ranging from lack of public transportation to police corruption.

Posted on Thursday, July 2nd, 2009 at 2:42 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Autism and Autos

I was reading this article about behavioral economics vis a vis the financial crisis and came across this passage:

One group that does not value perceived losses differently than gains are individuals with autism, a disorder characterized by problems with social interaction. When tested, autistics often demonstrate strict logic when balancing gains and losses, but this seeming rationality may itself denote abnormal behavior. “Adhering to logical, rational principles of ideal economic choice may be biologically unnatural,” says Colin F. Camerer, a professor of behavioral economics at Caltech.

Tyler Cowen thinks this should be interpreted differently, but in any case, as any discussion of rational and irrational behavior inevitably leads me back to driving, it brought up something I hadn’t previously thought about: Autism and driving.

The National Autistic Society (based in the U.K.) has considered the issue in some detail. “As autism is a spectrum disorder,” they note, “it is impossible to say that people with autism either should or should not be allowed to drive. Some people with autism may find this skill extremely difficult to grasp, while others will be highly competent drivers.”

The famous cliche here is of Rain Man — which I realize is hardly representative and perhaps outright stereotypical — when the lead character Raymond, when faced with a “Don’t Walk” sign in the middle of an intersection, suddenly freezes.

The NAS notes in this regard: “People with an ASD also tend to be good at following rules, such as those in the Highway Code. However, sometimes other drivers may make mistakes regarding the rules of the road and it is important to try and stay calm in these situations.”

I loved this quote from Marc Segar (who has Asperger syndrome), and think it applies quite broadly:

“Driving is quite a bizarre skill to learn. How fast you pick up driving has nothing to do with your intelligence in other things. Some real dimwits are able to learn to drive in as few as five lessons whereas some really intelligent people can need as many as fifty lessons.”

Posted on Thursday, July 2nd, 2009 at 2:04 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Transport column to me at:

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Upcoming Talks

April 9, 2008.
California Office of Traffic Safety Summit
San Francisco, CA.

May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
Bloomington, MN

June 23, 2009
Driving Assessment 2009
Big Sky, Montana

June 26, 2009
PRI World Congress
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

June 27, 2009
Day of Architecture
Utrecht, The Netherlands

July 13, 2009
Association of Transportation Safety Information Professionals (ATSIP)
Phoenix, AZ.

August 12-14
Texas Department of Transportation “Save a Life Summit”
San Antonio, Texas

September 2, 2009
Governors Highway Safety Association Annual Meeting
Savannah, Georgia

September 11, 2009
Oregon Transportation Summit
Portland, Oregon

October 8
Honda R&D Americas
Raymond, Ohio

October 10-11
INFORMS Roundtable
San Diego, CA

October 21, 2009
California State University-San Bernardino, Leonard Transportation Center
San Bernardino, CA

November 5
Southern New England Planning Association Planning Conference
Uncasville, Connecticut

January 6
Texas Transportation Forum
Austin, TX

January 19
Yale University
(with Donald Shoup; details to come)

Monday, February 22
Yale University School of Architecture
Eero Saarinen Lecture

Friday, March 19
University of Delaware
Delaware Center for Transportation

April 5-7
University of Utah
Salt Lake City
McMurrin Lectureship

April 19
International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (Organization Management Workshop)
Austin, Texas

Monday, April 26
Edmonton Traffic Safety Conference
Edmonton, Canada

Monday, June 7
Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals
Niagara Falls, Ontario

Wednesday, July 6
Fondo de Prevención Vial
Bogotá, Colombia

Tuesday, August 31
Royal Automobile Club
Perth, Australia

Wednesday, September 1
Australasian Road Safety Conference
Canberra, Australia

Wednesday, September 22

Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s
Traffic Incident Management Enhancement Program
Statewide Conference
Wisconsin Dells, WI

Wednesday, October 20
Rutgers University
Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation
Piscataway, NJ

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre
Injury Prevention Forum

Monday, May 2
Idaho Public Driver Education Conference
Boise, Idaho

Tuesday, June 2, 2011
California Association of Cities
Costa Mesa, California

Sunday, August 21, 2011
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
Madrid, Spain

April 16, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Gardens Theatre, QUT
Brisbane, Australia

April 17, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Centennial Plaza, Sydney
Sydney, Australia

April 19, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Melbourne Town Hall
Melbourne, Australia

January 30, 2013
University of Minnesota City Engineers Association Meeting
Minneapolis, MN

January 31, 2013
Metropolis and Mobile Life
School of Architecture, University of Toronto

February 22, 2013
ISL Engineering
Edmonton, Canada

March 1, 2013
Australian Road Summit
Melbourne, Australia

May 8, 2013
New York State Association of
Transportation Engineers
Rochester, NY

August 18, 2013 “Ingenuity” Conference
San Francisco, CA

September 26, 2013
TransComm 2013
(Meeting of American Association
of State Highway and Transportation
Officials’ Subcommittee on Transportation
Grand Rapids MI



July 2009

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