Archive for January 21st, 2009

Study: Hummer Drivers Rack Up Most Tickets

Quality Planning, whose previous studies appear in Traffic, has a new one out looking at which vehicles draw the most traffic tickets.

Number one? Hummer. (We knew this crapulous ride, a malignant tumor on the flatlining patient that is GM, had to be tops in something, given that it’s got some of the worst gas mileage on the road and, according to Consumer Reports, is consistently ranked one of the worst cars in America — poor handling, no visibility, frequent visits to the dealer, etc.).

“The sense of power that Hummer drivers derive from their vehicle may be directly correlated with the number of violations they incur,” president Raj Bhat said in statement. “Or perhaps Hummer drivers, by virtue of their driving position, are less likely to notice road hazards, signs, pedestrians or other drivers.”

Perhaps equally unsurprising, Buicks — the quintessential ‘granny’ car, oddly transmogrified into a favorite elite coach in China — rank among those vehicles getting the fewest infractions.

Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 at 8:33 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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First, Do No Harm

John Van Horn issues a welcome rebuke the U.K.’s health secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, for calling hospital parking fees a “tax on ill health”:

“She is saying that if you charge people to park, you are then in essence “taxing” them for being sick. I suppose then that it’s also true that if a person has a headache, then charging them for an aspirin is ‘taxing’ them for being sick. So it would follow that all ‘over the counter’ meds should be free because we don’t want to “tax” someone who has stubbed their toe, or has a hangover, or a hangnail…

…It’s little wonder that parking is now become a “right” and that it is up to the medical insurance system to pay for those who elect to drive to the hospital. Let’s see if I get this right. Everyone pays the same amount (as a percentage of income) for their health care. However, those who take a cab, the bus, or walk, pay for the parking for those who drive. How is that fair?

I’m sure that Nicola hasn’t considered the issues of “free” parking, not only some paying for others, but the fact that it isn’t “green,” the fact that it causes congestion, and the fact that what started all this charging for parking half a decade ago was the fact that there wasn’t any parking space at the hospitals, since locals were parking “free” in the hospital lots and garages and taking all the space needed for ambulances, doctors, and dare I say it, patients.”

Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 at 11:28 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Buy When Cars Are Burning in the Street?

The Economist notes that car burnings in the U.K. increase as times get tough (the title of the post refers, of course, to Baron Rothschild’s famous aphorism about making money). People also get more litigious.

The piece also notes: “This combination of higher claims and lower new business written would appear to be toxic for underwriters. But as you might expect from the insurance industry, it is a lot more complicated than that, because recessions also tend to depress some types of claims. People drive less, reducing the number of motor accidents. The industries that often shrink most in a recession—construction and manufacturing—are among the most dangerous for workers. That means fewer payouts for insurers that have written protection against injuries. And for commercial and industrial property, though damage to premises rises, the cost of finding alternative facilities is lower.”

Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 at 9:20 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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I love the entryway for the new Roads and Traffic Authority (Australia) crash-lab, designed by Hassell.

Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 at 9:09 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Good Policy or Insitutionalized Chutzpah?

In a piece for the Guardian a while back about taking the UK driver’s test, I joked about one of the questions on the test:

“Weird cultural biases crept in. One question asked about encountering a burns victim at an accident scene. I looked in vain for the only answer a driver in the litigious US could give: “Stay in your car, call 911, and do not touch the victim as you may accidentally hurt him even more and he will sue the shirt off of your back.”

This was not, of course, the right answer. But the recent developments in the case of a California driver who sued an office-mate who tried to help her after a car crash on Halloween night rather reinforced the notion, to me at least, that this is indeed is the only proper answer in the U.S.

In an ideal world I suppose we would wait for official emergency response, but what if the person dies while you stand watching and waiting — can you then be sued for negligence? Eroding the “Good Samaritan” law in this way rather strikes me as opening the door to institutional chutzpah, the classic definition being the case of the child who murdered his parents and then threw himself upon the mercy of the court, saying he was an orphan.

Any lawyers want to weigh in?

Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 at 8:56 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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More Distracting Fun From the DFT

An interesting play-it-at-home distracted driving challenge from the DFT. I missed five questions and my pedestrian spotting was off by one.

Obviously we aren’t asked to assign values to pedestrians while driving, nor hit space bars; but then again, we don’t have to steer, brake, turn, merge, check mirrors, or do anything else in this simulation (mind you, many U.S. drivers wouldn’t stop anyway at those marked crosswalks, unless there was a pedestrian in dead center).

(hat tip to Mind Hacks)

Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 at 7:58 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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A Few New Blogs

I tend to have a sympathetic ear for three types of travelers, each of which often receives their own particular brand of venom and grief from ordinary drivers: Cyclists (I really mean bicyclists here, but motorized as well), truck drivers, and highway patrol officers. I’ve linked to many cycle sites before, but lately I’ve been enjoying 8 Feet Up, a blog run by “Dale the Truck Driver,” a Twin Cities hauler who documents, as he drives, the wayward mores of other drivers. I’ve also been enjoying Tales From the Road: A Traffic Cop’s Stories, as far as I know the only such blog (there may be others). I don’t know anything about this one, just that it provides a real window onto a dangerous profession (the most dangerous part of a cop’s job, statistically, is being on the highway).

Posted on Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 at 7:58 am 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:

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage:

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency:

For speaking engagement inquiries, please contact
Kim Thornton at the Random House Speakers Bureau:

Order Traffic from:

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Random House | Powell’s

U.S. Paperback UK Paperback
Traffic UK
Drive-on-the-left types can order the book from

For UK publicity enquiries please contact Rosie Glaisher at Penguin.

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



January 2009

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