Archive for June 30th, 2009

Intexticated Redux

I’m slow to post on this, but I was glad to see Car and Driver address the issue of texting while driving. The result was unsurprising to anyone who’s looked into the human factors work on attention and distraction, though I liked the eye-catching pairing with impaired driving.

A few further thoughts:

In some other reports on this experiment, I saw the phrase “real world driving” used. The Car and Drive trial was not real-world driving. It was a real car on real asphalt, but had about as much relevance to the real world of traffic as the traffic-free car ads shot in the desert (on ‘closed courses’) have to the actual experience of driving in America.

Related to this, the stimulus that they were meant to respond to was just that: A single stimulus. In real traffic there could be any number of other hazards to potentially respond to than a simple light in front of you (and these would come with less expectation).

The fact that the younger drivers had better response times says more about the response times of younger people than it does driving safety; we need to balance out the faster response time with the risk taking and decision-making skills of younger drivers, which means, among other things, they’re probably driving faster, less able to scan the full extent of the road for hazards, more likely to be doing more texting, thus increasing exposure, etc. etc.

Similarly, the texting task was quite simple and repetitive, and so doesn’t adequately cover the range of distractions that could be posed — i.e., thinking about the text you’ve read, thinking about how to respond, retrieving some bit of information from short-term memory, etc. etc.

Lastly, I would have enjoyed seeing hands-free and hand-held cell phones thrown in there as well. That issue is not “finished” as the even greater hazard of texting arrives.

I’m sure there’s other factors to think about, and readers please feel free to suggest any.

The authors conclude:

In our test, neither subject had any idea that using his phone would slow down his reaction time so much. Like most folks, they think they’re pretty good drivers. Our results prove otherwise, at both city and highway speeds. The key element to driving safely is keeping your eyes and your mind on the road. Text messaging distracts any driver from that primary task. So the next time you’re tempted to text, tweet, e-mail, or otherwise type while driving, either ignore the urge or pull over. We don’t want you rear-ending us.

The above-average-effect is alive and well…

Posted on Tuesday, June 30th, 2009 at 3:59 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Blood Drive

I’m curious about the phrase that appeared in this story from the 1930s. Was it used to refer to hit-and-run drivers, or pedestrian deaths by automobiles in general?

(via Weekend Stubble)

Posted on Tuesday, June 30th, 2009 at 3:34 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Hue and Drive

The FT notes a recent global survey on car colors. I’m surprised that white has the pole position in the U.S.; maybe it’s geographical, but I don’t see that many of them round these parts. I always seem to get a white car (and I’m not happy about it) at a rental agency; maybe that throws off the results? I’ve also often wondered if they favored white cars to show off damage more easily?

I’m also note sure what explains this: “China is the only region where orange is a popular option: 3 per cent of Chinese car buyers chose it.”

Posted on Tuesday, June 30th, 2009 at 2:18 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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On the Road Again

In August, the paperback version of Traffic will be released, and roughly a month later, I’ll be hitting the road for a series of events. The schedule is still a bit rough, but there will be stops in Los Angeles on and a bit around the 16th, and the week before that: Boston, Kansas City, Houston. And then after that Washington D.C. And still taking shape are trips to Portland, Oregon and Chicago. This in addition to the evolving list of events posted in the right column.

I will post again when this becomes more fully realized, but if you’re in one of the places and are interested in an interview, an appearance, offering a tour of the local TMC, please get in touch at

Posted on Tuesday, June 30th, 2009 at 10:54 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:

Amazon | B&N | Borders
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



June 2009

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