How’s My Driving? A Q&A With the Author of Traffic

Traffic

Traffic and congestion have come up a lot on this blog lately.

We even blegged for parking solutions and analyzed the effectiveness of traffic signs — according to Tom Vanderbilt, author of the book Traffic (due out July 29), they’re virtually ineffective and may even “allow us to basically stop thinking.”

But dozing cows, he says, can work better than speed bumps to slow traffic.

In his book, Vanderbilt explains how traffic works (including why the other lane always moves faster), why we drive the way we do, and what we can do about it.

Road rage isn’t all bad, he claims:

… it can be quite therapeutic to act like a yelling maniac once in a while, and the plush, leather-seated interior of a car provides a nice, semi-private environment in which to do that.

VanderbiltTom Vanderbilt, Photo by Kate Burton.

He also gives great driving tips, like: don’t drive with divorcees.

Vanderbilt is contributing editor to I.D. and Print, and writes for, among other publications, Wired, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and his own blog.

He has agreed to answer our questions about his forthcoming book.

(And if someone in a 2001 Volvo V40 ever cuts you off and looks like this ——————–>
just smile and wave.)

Q: A soft-spoken friend of mine turns into a yelling maniac when someone cuts him off in traffic. You say in the book that drivers “struggle to stay human” behind the wheel. What happens to my friend?

A: What happens to most of us, in most driving conditions, is that we’re losing some of the key attributes that facilitate human cooperation and, in a larger sense, society.

Eye contact, for example, has been shown in any number of experiments to increase the chance of gaining cooperation — that’s why when drivers give you what was called on Seinfeld the “stare-ahead,” your chances that they’ll let you merge in ahead of them are greatly reduced.

Then there’s the anonymity in traffic — there’s no one to spread rumors or gossip about you about how bad your behavior was — not to mention the lack of consequences for acting like an idiot. It’s all strikingly similar to the way we act on the internet, in what’s called the “online disinhibition effect.”

We can lurk behind screen names (our car and license plate), say nasty things about people (honk, give the finger), and then sign off and never be heard from again (drive away).

In a nice convergence of this, the website PlateWire allows people to anonymously insult others’ rude and unsafe behavior.

I personally think it can be quite therapeutic to act like a yelling maniac once in a while, and the plush, leather-seated interior of a car provides a nice, semi-private environment in which to do that. Remember, in traffic no one can hear you scream.

Q: How effective are road signs really?

A: Last week I just spoke to someone at the Chicago D.O.T. At a particularly curvy part of Lake Shore Drive, they’ve had trouble with crashes. They tried putting up signs, then tried larger signs, then tried larger flashing signs. Still people behave foolishly. Finally they tried putting markings on the pavement that trick drivers into thinking they’re going faster than they are (an example of the “choice architecture” discussed in Thaler and Sunstein‘s Nudge). When we actually see signs to begin with, as we often don’t seem to when doing something like talking on a cell phone and driving, it is a further mystery how and if we decide to act on that information.

“Children at play” signs and the like are absolutely ineffective in changing a driver’s behavior, and studies of drivers through school zones show they were driving much faster than they remember. It’s been argued that signs allow us to basically stop thinking, and in certain places experiments have been done in which they’ve been removed, with no negative safety effects.

Q: How about these?

Road SignPhoto: Ben Hayes
Road SignPhoto: Ben Hayes


A: The signs remind me of the “relax” messages emblazoned on traffic lights in Delhi – amusing, but with little hope of changing actual behavior.

Q: When I was in Delhi, I felt weirdly safer in an auto-rickshaw weaving past cars, motorcycles, and the occasional cow. Is there some logic to that or am I just insane?

A:
Statistically, you’re much better off in an auto-rickshaw than on a motorbike or on foot in Delhi, though this is a complex question with many variables.

Also, in any city you’re safer in a car than you are in rural areas, where the bulk of fatalities happen. On cows in the street — Delhi’s former top traffic cop told me he was of two minds; yes, they obstruct traffic flow, but they also act as a calming influence on Delhi’s “rash” drivers. A cow is only a hazard if you drive in a way that doesn’t take into account the cow.

Q: So why does the other lane always move faster?

A: Well, if you’re on something like the SR 91 “high occupancy tolling” lanes in Orange County, it’s because you’re paying more for the privilege. And sometimes, the adjoining lane may be losing vehicles because of an impending off-ramp.

But there’s a curious bias that plays out in oscillating shifts of traffic, observed by the researchers Donald Redelmeier and Robert Tibshirani, in which drivers, who are oriented towards observing things in the forward view much more than the rear, spend more time watching cars passing them than they spend watching themselves passing other cars.

Given the general findings that humans are more sensitive to losses than gains, it doesn’t seem a stretch to imagine that this sense of being passed — of the other lane being faster — would stick out in our brains. All you have to do is pick out a benchmark car in the adjoining lane to see how often we fall for this illusion. I’ve seen these cars pass well out of vision, only to find myself passing them again minutes later. Part of the reason this seesaw effect is happening in the first place is because of all the drivers ahead thought they could get a better deal, and basically ended up just shifting the equilibrium around temporarily.

There are rarely any better deals in congestion, but that doesn’t stop people from bargain hunting.

Q: I’ve thrown paper, yelled in my car, and revenge-cut people off (I learned to drive in New Jersey). What’s the best way to deal with festering road rage?

A: Because I’ve done everything you’ve mentioned myself, I’m probably not the best person to ask!

Honking is a cheap signal, like birds chirping to warn of an approaching predator, that arguably may do some good for the species by letting someone know that the way they’re acting is decidedly not cool.

The problem is the person doing the offending — and often that may be you — may likely not be the type of person to register your feedback, or accept it as any “teachable moment.”

It’s probably better to maintain the moral high ground and simply attribute other’s bad acts to their slovenly moral decrepitude, or my favorite tactic is to call those highway patrol numbers they have posted for this very purpose. Lior Strahilavetz at the University of Chicago has argued for universal “how’s my driving” stickers, so we could all exchange eBay-style feedback on the road, reporting cheaters — people who aren’t playing by the rules. I think this is a promising solution.

Q: In the book, you mention using game theory’s “asymmetry in communication” concept when negotiating your way through traffic. How is this done and it is wise/ safe?

A: This is the whole idea, articulated by Thomas Schelling, of making yourself “unavailable” for the receipt of messages, thus forcing your adversary to make a decision based on imperfect information.

It’s like sending a nuke-loaded bomber towards Moscow and shutting off ringer on the red phone. If, at one of Mexico City’s many unsignalized intersections, for example, you approach at roughly the same time as another car, you could quite possibly “win” the intersection by not looking at the other driver — as long as he knows you haven’t seen him, or is unsure you haven’t seen him.

Schelling argued you could most strongly signal your commitment to winning the intersection by throwing your steering wheel out the window, but I don’t recommend that form of deterrence!

Studies have actually shown things like that when pedestrians crossing in crosswalks (the mid-block kind where drivers are supposed to yield to those in the walk) do not look at drivers, drivers are more likely to grant them the right of way. I see this in New York City occasionally — a pedestrian just totally, obliviously crossing the street, not looking at me at all. Of course, I have no alternative but to slow.

As much I applaud any sort of impromptu “traffic calming,” I wouldn’t recommend not looking at drivers, if only because you can’t be sure they’ve seen you. Drivers are far from rational actors.

Q: Would you prefer being stuck in traffic with a bunch of narcissists or insecure people? Why?

A: Insecure, for sure. Narcissism has been implicated in aggressive driving behavior. People who drive expensive cars, for example, have been shown to do things like honk faster and drive closer to the car in front of them.

Actually narcissism as a cultural force may contribute to the sense out there that driving behavior has gotten progressively worse. This tracks with increases in self-reported narcissistic behavior in psychological tests. More people these days are likely to say “yes” to questions like “if I ruled the world, it would be a better place,” and more people seem to be driving in that spirit.

Q: What about the way we drive leads to the most accidents?

A: That’s an easy one: distraction, speed, and human psychology.

We don’t pay enough attention when we drive, and our attention itself is a fragile entity prone to any number of gaps and distortions. To make matters worse, we drive fast. Speed is the fundamental cause of all traffic danger — not only do injuries and deaths rise with speed (places where people never drive above 35 mph have very low car fatality rates, full-stop), our ability to avoid injuries and deaths declines with increased speed.

And often we have precious little notion of how fast we would be able to react to something; in night driving, for example, we “overdrive” our headlights with shocking regularity. But we’re blind to just how blind we are.

Q: How does talking on a cell-phone really affect your driving ability?

A: A prominent human factors researcher put it simply to me: We can’t time-share. We can get away with doing very simple things in tandem, but with any activity with a certain range of difficulty — like driving or talking on a cellphone — there is always a cognitive detriment.

Speed reading comes at the cost of comprehension. The crawl on CNN disrupts our ability to focus on the actual images of the news as well as the crawl itself. Even people’s walking is affected by their talking on a cell-phone. Unlike alcohol, we have a positive social image associated with cell-phone use, even when in the car — it’s the very image of viral multi-tasking. We need to call home to find out if there’s milk in the fridge (somehow we got by without the ability when I first learned to drive).

But that positive image is an illusion, and it may be just one factor that helps explain the stubbornly high crash and fatality levels in this country.

I can hear you say, but I drive all the time on my phone. Most drunks make it home at night too, through sheer dumb luck, but think of all the death and damage done by those who don’t. Laws will be hard to enforce on this; what we really need is a strong social norm that says it’s just not a good idea to drive and talk — and hands-free offers no cognitive benefit over a hand-held cell-phone.

Q: What’s the most effective or promising traffic model you’ve come across?

A: One technology that is quite clever and productive is the concept of “variable speed limits,” as seen on highways in England and elsewhere.

Basically, if there’s a patch of congestion, it’s detected by sensors, and a new, slower speed limit is announced back “upstream.” That way, rather than having everyone drive at full speed into a traffic jam, which is neither good for safety nor traffic flow itself, the congestion shock wave is “damped.” Of course, people being people, you tend to have to have things like speed limit cameras there to make sure people go the suggested speed.


Q:
You have a whole chapter devoted to the fact that women cause more congestion. Why, and does this influence insurance prices for men and women?

A: There has been a historical shift over the past few decades in women’s participation in the workforce, so their driving, as a whole, is now almost equal to men’s. Men still drive more miles, but women make more trips.

The reason is they’re statistically doing more of the non-work trips — picking up the kids, etc. (and the more kids you have, the more miles you drive). Men still tend to do less what of is called “trip-chaining.” Women make more of these trips during the peak hours on the roads that are less well designed for heavy traffic flow; hence the “more congestion” argument.

Men’s fatality risks in traffic are still higher, but apart from young males, the gender gap in insurance has closed rapidly, in part because the exposure of women drivers has increased so much.

Q: It takes me an abnormal amount of time to parallel park. Am I somehow affecting traffic?

A: Urban street parking is one of those curious trade-offs. Some engineers hate street parking; they say it clogs roads (remember, a single double-parker on a street cuts the throughput in half) and causes crashes.

But others, and I view myself here, see it as an effective traffic calming device. People drive measurably slower on streets which are enclosed by rows of parked cars.

It’s searching for parking that’s more problematic, as Donald Shoup at UCLA shows us. Underpriced or free street parking causes significant amounts of excess traffic, as people “cruise,” or bargain hunt, for spaces. Meters should be set at rates, he argues, that ensure roughly 15 percent vacancy at any time. To paraphrase a cliché: there’s no such thing as free parking.

Q: What’s a surprising thing that can make roads more dangerous?

A: Sometimes, it’s the appearance of safety that makes roads dangerous.

Take four-way signalized intersections versus roundabouts, for example. Most people in the U.S. prefer the former, which give clear, simple, precise instructions on how to proceed; whereas we still tend to view roundabouts as these weird, confusing European imports.

But four-way signalized intersections physically have many more potential points of “conflict” than roundabouts; also, roughly 1,000 people per year die in intersections because of red-light running. People tend to reduce their caution going through signalized intersections because they think they “have the light.” At a roundabout, you’re less sure of your right of way, and in any case, everyone has to slow to enter a roundabout, so by its very nature it prevents the dangerous t-bone collisions of a four-way signalized intersection.

Q:What’s the best way to decrease traffic fatalities?

A: One answer would be to get men off the roads. World War II, when the bulk of men were overseas, was the golden age of traffic safety in the U.S. (granted, there were a lot fewer miles driven as well).

The next largest drop came in 1974, when the 55 mph speed limit was enacted (the recession helped somewhat too, as it may this year). Fatalities dropped by more than 9,000 — we’ve not managed anything remotely similar in a single year since (and in some years they’ve gone up).

Then there’s the painfully obvious things — don’t drink and drive, and wear a seat-belt (it’s amazing how many people who do the former don’t do the latter — not that wearing a seat-belt excuses drunk driving). But speed really lies at the heart of fatalities. When a car hits a pedestrian at 20 mph, the chances of survival for the pedestrian are roughly 9 in 10, when the speed is 30 mph, that drops to half.

In a world of a maximum 20 mph speed limit, even impaired driving would produce a fraction of the fatalities it does today. Crash damage to cars (and thus their occupants) is also non-linear — the faster you go, the worse it gets, and all the airbags in the world can’t overcome certain physiological limits of what forces humans can tolerate. Certain vehicle technologies like electronic stability control will help, though arguably not by the optimistic rate the regulators say they will, as people will invariably drive more recklessly.

Q: In the book, you give many examples of how human nature works against us when driving. Does it ever work in our favor?

A: Most of us do move about every day without incident, and I think there’s something pretty incredible in the fact that these complex systems work to begin with. Whether it’s cultural, or a product of evolution, I do think the human impulse for cooperation — even when we’ve lost most of the human interaction — does aid in getting traffic to work as well as it does.

Most of us, I believe, want to do the right thing on the road; unfortunately, those that don’t are the ones that tend to stick out in our minds.


victim

seems like there is more than one question being asked here. If the question is, how to reduce road rage- the answer is- depends- if you are a girl or boy. Last year I was a victim of a hit and run accident. There were two cement trucks owned by the same spelled backwards American company and my lane was merging into theres on the GW bridge. I let one truck go ahead and thought that, fairly, it was my turn to go in line- well the truck driver did not see things my way- and did not let me in- in fact, he nudged me further and further to the side as if I had to wait and wait. well I saw an opportunity to move ahead of both trucks- big mistake- I got to a point where I could move no further and the cement truck rammed right into me- there was no question in my mind that I was a victim of his rage. so I followed the truck into upper Manhattan for 1/2 an hour beeping my horn all the time, trying to get the attention of the police- but that did not work. I eventually left the scene of his crime- my insurance company never filed a criminal report- I filed with the police- it did not go further than that. My lesson- you never know whom you're up against when it comes to driving- so the only sign I need is "DRIVE WITH CARE" and I have ever since.

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kevin

I thought I had read somewhere that simply making the lanes narrower could reduce speed and accidents, because it makes people drive more cautiously. Maybe the same effect as parking along the road?

In any case - make all surface streets 20 MPH.

And, I love roundabouts. You never have the feeling that you're stuck at a light. I think I'm in the minority of Americans who feel that way. Aren't there some states like Indianna and NJ that have a lot of roundabouts. In Georgia, we don't have any that I know of.

I'm fine with that.

browning

Shut up and drive!

Vijay Simha

I drive in Delhi mostly. Many of the answers are sensible. Except for the harping on slowing the speed of driving. The author even mentions 20kmph in one answer. To my mind, that's poor thinking. Why would you need a car if you want to drive at 20kmph? I'm not advocating speed, mind you, but 20kmph is silly.

Matt

Aaron,

I'm not even going to touch the sexist part of your comment but as to the idea that traffic lights should respond to traffic by staying green for longer depending on the number of cars built up on that street versus the perpendicular one, I have actually seen an interesting version of this in Ho Chi Minh city. There are traffic lights in HCMC but they are largely ignored. Instead, the innumerable scooters and few cars merely build up on a side street while the main street traffic flows completely ignoring the changing lights. Then when the crowd on the side street builds into a phalanx large enough to cut through, they all go at once, forcing the oncoming traffic on the main thoroughfare to stop until they have all passed and the game starts again. Granted the chaotic nature of this city-wide game of chicken results in a huge number of accidents and fatalities, but one could imagine a more organized version working quite well.

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John Chapin

I've always wondered about the phrase "cutting someone off in traffic". What does it mean? That someone changed lanes in front of someone else? In busy traffic, how else do you change lanes?

Roger

What we need is the rapid adoption of GPS-controlled flying cars, such as the revolutionary "Cartercopter".

Then traffic congestion, accidents and delays will fade into the past.

bob

If I get stopped for talking on a cell phone while driving, it will be by a cop who has a front seat full of distractions. Look at a modern police car! computer, radio, and yes, cell phone. Some example they are. Come to think of it, they drive like there's no tomorrow, stomping on the gas, leaving the engine idling with the A/C on, you name it.

Maureen

Adam -- the answer is (and studies have proved both the points I'm about to repeat):

No difference. It is the conversation, on the phone or off, that is the distraction...and the risk. The more passengers in the car, the more distraction for the driver.

As much as we'd all like to think we're pretty good at multi-tasking in and out of our cars, every additional task we take on splits our attention to the detriment of each task.

So, whether our extra task is eating, reading, texting, putting on make-up, chatting on a cellphone or talking to our passenger(s), our attention isn't 100% where it ought to be...on our driving.

"Hands-free" cellphones don't mitigate the risk as much as many would like to think, but at least with a hands-free device (either built-in or headset) both the driver's hands are free for the wheel, and peripheral vision isn't impaired by a hand and a phone up against the driver's head.

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Larry

Interesting interview on traffic and congestion patterns. It is definitely the case that in most instances of congestion, one lane only seems to be faster than the other, and lane-switching doesn't necessarily result in getting through the congestion any faster. This is not necessarily true, however, when the cause of congestion is several lanes narrowing to fewer lanes, whether by design or accident (as in a real vehicle accident blocking lanes of traffic).
One place where congestion is bound to occur is the few hundred feet after toll booths, when many lanes merge into a few (not to mention the congestion-promoting properties of tollbooths themselves). A classic example local to the Bay Area is the westbound direction on the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge, where 20 lanes at the tollbooths merge to 5 on the bridge. If traffic builds up at all, it will slow for the tolls, and also literally be stopped (during rush hour and selected other times) at 16 lanes at metering lights a couple of hundred feet downstream from the toll booths, before then merging down to the 5 lanes on the bridge.
Although I don't drive across the bridge regularly, I have discovered that the fastest route across the bridge from Oakland to San Francisco tends to be to start on the far right; indeed, the two carpool/bus lanes that are the farthest right lanes entering the bridge are the only lanes that feed directly into the far right lane on the bridge - a 2-to-1 merge. The next lane on the bridge is fed by 3 lanes prior to the toll booths (one of those expands into a three-lane mini-toll, but this moves quicker than several of the other tollbooth lanes, as these are restricted to Fastrak transponder use) - a 3-to-1 merge. The far left lane on the bridge, by contrast, is fed by five tollbooth lanes (including two carpool lanes) - a 5-to-1 merge.
As the traffic approaches San Francisco, the rightmost and leftmost lanes become exit-only lanes. Thus, thru traffic is further funneled in San Francisco from the 5 lanes on the bridge to 3 lanes in the city. As there is usually more traffic exiting on the right to Fremont Street than to the left to 5th Street, and that exit is substantially earlier than the left exit, the right-hand lanes tend to become more congested approaching San Francisco than the left hand lane. For reasons mentioned by other posts, for through traffic, the far left lane (the "merging" lane) ends up being faster than the lane immediately to its right (the "mergee" lane), as most drivers will stay in the three middle lanes if they do not want to exit at Fremont or 5th Streets.
Thus, the quickest route across the Bay Bridge tends to be to approach the bridge from as far right as possible, and then to move over as far left as possible sometime between the approach to Yerba Buena Island and the middle of the suspension bridge span between Yerba Buena Island and San Francisco, depending on how far back congestion has developed - and at the last moment, merge back into the thru traffic lanes, just before the exit ramp to 5th Street.
At the other end of I-80 (well, almost), where the GW bridge is, it's too confusing to figure out during rush hour the best lanes to be in as you drive toward Manhattan, as it depends on whether you're approaching from I-95, NJ4, US1/9/46, the Palisades Parkway, or local streets. One trick known by some locals (and sometimes thwarted by traffic cones) is, as you're approaching the bridge, to take the very last Fort Lee exit (to the left if you're on the lower deck approach, or to the right if you're on the upper deck approach). This exit ends with the option of rejoining the GW upper deck bridge traffic to the left (sometimes blocked except for buses), or exiting to Fort Lee to the right.
Regardless, I found that the fastest way to get across the GW Bridge during rush hour is to bicycle - and you get a wonderful view of the Hudson River and the west side of Manhattan that is much less appreciated from a car.

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Ethan Z.

I wonder what effect car size & openness has on disinhibition. My perception (as a driver of a small convertible for 16 years) is that I'm more "in the world" -- or maybe just more at risk -- and encouraged to make eye contact with other drivers. But my sample size is pretty small. Any real data here?

dadonkey

As a Paramedic and driver I have some pinions/ideas I've accumulated during uncountable hours on the road:

I despise people who don't devote their undivided attention to operating a heavy metal box careening along a highway at 80mph. I pride myself on being a respectful, cooperative driver- we're all on the same team out there: team alive. If I'm putting 100% of my concentration into operating my metal box safely, I hope the person driving behind me and my 2 young children would do the same. I'll use my cellphone speaker to receive or convey short messages, but never blab in the left lane going 60mph. That disregard for safety and human life gives me road rage.

We need to teach "Highway Driving" in driving schools. You don't pick a lane based on how you're feeling that day, or because you don't like switching lanes. In Europe, the left lane is for PASSING only, and even european slowpokes respect this; there are no vigilante speed controllers. These people cause more accidents by making people pass them on the right or tailgate them too closely. Unfortunately, these speed control vigilantes end up learning the hard way to stay to the right.

Use your MIRRORS! Be aware of cars coming up behind you. Don't zone out in the left lane, you will likely be rear-ended. Half the people clogging the left lane never look in their rear-view mirror to see the horror they've created piled up behind them.

Another observed cause of congestion in cities is hesitancy and indecision. Make your move with confidence and others will respect that. "He who hesitates is lost" my grandfather used to say. I'm not chauvinist, but have noticed women more than men do not merge fluidly and often hesitate in tense traffic situations.

I thought it would be a good idea to have brake lights that change color depending on how hard the driver is pressing the pedal. Maybe purple?

I vote for the idea of an online reporting system, though it would have to be regulated so some badapples didn't badmouth based on personal vendettas.

This could easily become a book.

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Johnny E

I rarely talk on my cellphone while driving, but after I do I realize that I missed every sign I was looking for. It's like being spaced-out from what's going on around you.

Another distraction is the ergonomic design of dashboards. In the old days the radio had an on/off/volume knob and a tuning knob that you could adjust without looking. Now some car stereos have 2 dozen buttons indistinguishable from each other so you have to take your eyes off the road.

I too get p.o.'d at high speed tailgaters. The tenth of a second earlier they'll arrive at their destination doesn't make up for the hours, weeks, or months they'll lose by getting into an accident.

It seems like every region has their own driving characteristics. Houston drivers are crazy with their high-speed tailgating but they're friendly when getting to a four-way stop sign intersection.

Dallas drivers like to pass you with a sling-shot pass. They come roaring up behind you until you know you'll be rear-ended before they switch lanes.

Texas drivers in general don't know what a turn-signal is.

California drivers see nothing wrong with passing on the right.

Roundabout merges can be confusing since the rules are different in different places. In countries where the person merging from the right has the righ-of-way in all cases you end up with the situation where everybody has the right to enter and nobody can exit.

I get peeved where there is notice of a lane closure ahead and there's always a jerk who won't change lanes until he almost runs over the traffic cones. Even when there's nobody in the open lane.

I've been doing a lot of cross-country driving lately. There's a lot of room for improvement ergonomically in how the highway signs are placed. Some give conflicting information, some have an arrow pointing our what lane you should be in yet the sign is straddling two lanes, some tell you where you should have just exited, some don't mention that the major interstate you were looking for is the exit you're driving past. Sometimes you have to make a decision which fork to take but the sign is placed too late to make your decision.

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jack

I recently met a gentleman who makes bumperstickers. I asked him want was his most successful one. He preceeded to show me a very patriotic red, white and blue sticker that reads "Stop road rage ( in all bold caps) Slow traffic keep left". I immediately bought a dozen of them.

PS. Why is driving in Europe so chaotic but with so little incident. Is it because they understand a car has mirror that are not there to look at yourself? The Sunday driver stays the hell out of the fast lane? Does this disorganzation cause the drivers to be more involved thus more aware?

PPS. Wille, maybe you're onto something. Arm all motorist

Jon

It's not just a psychological bias. The other lane actually does move faster most of the time: Since there are more cars in whichever lane is more congested/slower-moving, you are more likely to be observing things from the slower moving lane.

John

Sometimes following the strict rule contributes to congestion. At a four-way stop it is better to synchronize your crossing with other vehicles than to wait for your official turn to go. It's great when an intersection is flowing that way, but it only takes one overly obedient driver to break the phase and cause a backup.

Sean

I take a cue from the Buddhists when driving. Every time someone cuts me off I just take a few deep breaths. If someone wants to get over I let them over. It's hilarious to note that speeding over short distances (less then 10 miles) only amounts to reaching your destination a couple of minutes faster. I don't see the point of raising my blood pressure for a couple of minutes.

Steven Peters

Sounds like fast driving has unfortunate side effects. In addition to the safety risks mentioned here, it causes significantly larger aerodynamic forces and thus worse fuel economy.

malnicore

"If I can drive a manual transmission, and talk to someone in the passenger seat at the same time, how is that different than talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device?"
- Posted by Adam (#1)

People who ask this question should not talk to someone in the passenger seat while driving a car with either a manual or an automatic transmission.

Willie Horton

I used to get terrible road rage, but it was cured instantly four years ago... when I obtained a concealed carry permit.
In any "road rage" incident, there is a tiny but non-zero risk of a physical confrontation with the other driver. When one is carrying a loaded firearm, two things are true:
1. Making a gesture at another driver might result in a shooting.
2. That shooting, even if defensive, would be your fault!
My middle finger has not been seen in isolation since 2004, and the only reason I honk is to say "Hi!"
However, I do indulge myself in one form of retaliation against tailgaters: I wash my windshield. They seldom realize why I'm doing it, and I think of it as relieving myself on their car.