Traffic Book Summary - Traffic Book explained in key points
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Traffic summary

Tom Vanderbilt

Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)

4.1 (20 ratings)
12 mins

Brief summary

Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt explores the complex world of transportation with surprising insights and fascinating statistics. The book provides a critical analysis of the forces shaping our individual and collective choices on the road, and offers creative solutions to improve traffic flow and safety.

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    Traffic
    Summary of 6 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 6

    Traffic (usually) brings out the worst in us.

    How did you react the last time someone cut you off at an intersection? Did your usual, calm self transform into a psychotic demon, pounding the horn and shouting obscenities out the window?

    It happens to the best of us. These emotional outbursts happen because human nature is not made to be trapped inside the small, mobile, metal boxes we call cars. Humans are fundamentally communicative beings, but the enclosed and separated spaces of automobiles prevent us from expressing ourselves properly. So when something bothers us, we become frustrated and aggressive instead of communicating about it.

    But the modern technology of cars can’t stop human nature, and we’ll try anything to get our message across – no matter how absurd.

    For example, one study examined how drivers respond to being honked at. Over 75 percent responded verbally, even though they were separated by steel and glass!

    And drivers often try to send messages that won’t improve the situation whatsoever. Like when a driver dangerously overtakes another car, and we try to show them how wrong they are by doing exactly the same thing to them. Or when we give someone the finger for honking at us, which only makes them angrier.

    But all this anger has a deeper meaning: we use it to maintain our lost human identity.

    When we step into a car, our sense of self is transformed into the anonymous metal box we are driving. In a sense, we become less human, and more machine. In this cyborg state, when someone cuts off our vehicle body, we feel like a part of ourselves has been cut off, too. So in a vain attempt to protect our identity, we rage at the other cyborgs on the road.

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    What is Traffic about?

    In Traffic (2008), Tom Vanderbilt explores the chaos and order of our driving experiences. From the psychology of traffic jams to the paradoxes of driving safety, these blinks will reveal one aspect of the eternal battle between the limits of human nature and the technology that sets us free.

    Traffic Review

    Traffic (2008) is an intriguing exploration of the complexities and psychology behind our everyday experiences on the road. Here's why this book is definitely worth a read:

    • Offers fascinating insights into the hidden patterns and behaviors of traffic, revealing the surprising ways it impacts our lives.
    • Explores the variety of factors that influence traffic flow, including human behavior, urban planning, and technology, providing a comprehensive understanding of the subject.
    • Uses engaging anecdotes and real-life stories to illustrate key concepts, making the book not only informative but also an enjoyable and thought-provoking read.

    Who should read Traffic?

    • Drivers who want to be safer on the road and move faster in traffic
    • Anyone interested in psychology

    About the Author

    Tom Vanderbilt is a journalist, writer and blogger who contributes regularly to publications like The Wall Street Journal, Slate and the London Review of Books. He is also the author of Survival City: Adventures Among the Ruins of Atomic America and The Sneaker Book.

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    Traffic FAQs 

    What is the main message of Traffic?

    The main message of Traffic is understanding the complexities and challenges of modern transportation.

    How long does it take to read Traffic?

    The reading time for Traffic varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Traffic a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Traffic is worth reading for its insightful exploration of how we navigate our everyday lives. It offers a fresh perspective on an often overlooked topic.

    Who is the author of Traffic?

    The author of Traffic is Tom Vanderbilt.

    What to read after Traffic?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Traffic, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    • How to Know a Person by David Brooks
    • Daily Rituals by Mason Currey
    • 7 Strategies for Wealth & Happiness by Jim Rohn
    • I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t) by Brené Brown
    • The Molecule of More by Daniel Z. Lieberman and Michael E. Long
    • Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg
    • Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell
    • The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber
    • The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselman