Features of Daily Basis Driving

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Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt takes a deep look into how people drive on a daily basis. Several of the items that were discussed in the book were things that the everyday individual has thought about but not as in depth as he puts it. One of my chapters were on the topic of merging. Coming from Kalamazoo, where the most you’ll see is a three-lane highway for ten minutes was an entirely different experience than from what I saw In Detroit. I frequently looked at the oncoming mergers into the queue and saw how congested traffic would get. Vanderbilt dives into the issues of why that is case. It also allowed me to take a good luck at how I drive. Was I a late merger or an early merger? Could I be one of the drivers contributing to this congestion? Turns out I was both. Navigating the driving world is difficult and complex.

One thing the book Traffic nailed right on the head was the mind processes that go through the driver’s mind. Before reading this text, I always considered myself to be a good driver. I’ve never been in accident and I’ve had two speeding tickets. Of course, I’ve been pulled over a few times but often for trivial things like my license plate not being illuminated. All and all, still a good driver in my eyes. In the chapter “Why you’re not as a good a driver as you think you are” sheds some light on my poor judgements. Vanderbilt asked the reader to judge themselves not based on accidents but on how many close calls a driver has. It got me thinking about all times where I could have been hurt or hurt someone else and I realized, that I am not a good driver even though I thought I was.

As humans, the world has always been looked at as “survival of the fittest”. The same applies to driving. Vanderbilt goes int detail about why humans get into traffic jams. Its all about me, no one is really looking out for the well-being of others. He uses the analogy of ants to describe this process. Ants work for the collectiveness of the colony. Every ant puts in the work for the greater good, but humans do not do this. The reason why is simple. People do not operate on a collective level, they operate on the individual level. It’s like saying, I’ve got mines, now go get yours. This is not a good concept to follow when you’re driving especially if you’re driving on the highway. Once a driver “gets theirs”, then the next driver will have to “get theirs”. But since humans don’t operate as a collective, the only way for the next driver to “get theirs” is by taking some of what’s “yours”. This only has negative effects on traffic congestion.

Vanderbilt also talks about the way drivers park and even I fell right into the very problem he was describing. He lists the two strategies for the way driver’s park. I found myself thinking about the ways in which I choose a space, but I found out that I was always looking for a space by the door. This is part of the issue. Drivers spend more time looking for parking spaces and creates traffic within confine spaces instead of just picking a place to park. After thinking about it I realized it doesn’t matter where any one parks necessarily as long as they just do it. Considering drivers aren’t in the parking lot just to choose a space, the time could be better used by shopping in the desired facility that they are in.

Another thing that got me thinking about Detroit’s traffic is the number of lanes they have. Typically, 4-5 lanes are open on the busier highway. I always thought the solution would just be to add more lanes. Of course, this is foolish thinking. In “Why more roads leads to more traffic”, Vanderbilt goes into detail in on why not only is that a bad idea but its ineffective. Creating more lanes leads to more traffic since more people will feel the need to do so. Prior to reading his text I always assumed that if you added more lanes the only downside could be that slow drivers—who think they are fast—would tie up the newly open lanes. I never took into account that more drivers would just used the newly opened lanes.

The average driver does not like dangerous roads, however, Vanderbilt puts into perspective how “dangerous roads are safer”. If a road is dangerous, maybe there are blind curves, or several potholes, a typical driver will drive slower. Driving slower means that a driver become more aware of their surroundings. This is a good thing considering that drivers are sharing the space with cyclist and pedestrians. It is easy as a driver to forget that others who aren’t in heavy duty vehicles are there. As sad as that may sound, drivers may feel more protected in their steel boxes, but maybe less caring to those that aren’t. A dangerous road keeps driver, cyclist and pedestrians on their toes.

The chapter I enjoyed the most was the chapter on “how traffic explains the world”. Delhi has some really chaotic traffic, but it does get the job done. Transporting as many people as possible. Although it does make me nervous to think about cyclists weaving in between cars while on the road, it did give me a new sense of appreciation of cultures. Does traffic define the culture or does culture define the traffic? It could go both ways. One thing I hate the most is driving in Chicago traffic. The mentality always came off as “get in where you fit in”. Vanderbilt expressed that driving in new places could be a scary thing however most people adapt to the type of driving that they’re in, within the first two months of doing it. This reminded me to not worry so much about the traffic and just enjoy the drive.

Even though, majority of people drive on a daily basis, Vanderbilt has opened my eyes to why we do it the way we do. Not only did his book teach me a lot about how other drive but he gave me some incitement of how I drive as well. I’ve come to appreciate driving as an art form and I hope to apply some of the lessons he has taught me in his book on my future endeavors.

Traffic Interpretations

Random Acts respondents allow driver to get in front of them when merging. This would be a good concept to follow if everyone was on the same page. The issue lies when uncertainty kicks in. In the mergers head, drivers may have their indicator signal on, but are unaware if drivers in the queue line will slow down enough to let them in. They are also unaware of whether the drivers in the queue are going to feel as though they have been cut off by them, thus unable to merge as well. The driver in the queue line is uncertain whether the merger will hop right into the flow of traffic, or be paralyzed with doubt about hopping right in. This creates a buildup of merging cars and drivers already in queue lanes.

I agree with the live free or die type merging (i.e., late merging). This is where signs are posted—not far in advance—to indicate a lane merge. It takes away the “choice” option while driving and tells drivers exactly what they need to be doing. Many drivers are distracted drivers, so having to choose a lane or to let a merger into the queue would decrease their decision making. It will eliminate the feeling of others cutting you off if they just merge later when told.

Europeans do not like to deal with the concept of merging. They found it simpler to add more lanes by using previously existing ones in order to keep traffic flowing. Due to the narrowing of lanes, drivers become more cautious and just driver slower which in turn reduces more potential accidents.

The dynamic late merge was designed to tell drivers when to merge based on the amount of traffic. Heavy traffic = later merge, light traffic = “conventional merge”—take some time to merge. This didn’t work because of two reasons. 1. Drivers didn’t respond to the signs that were telling them what to do. 2. Drivers end up believing that they were doing the right thing for the collective but ultimately made traffic worse.

The Texas Survey Institute found that work zones tend to create the most +merging difficulties”. When a lane is going to end, signs are posted stating such. However, mergers entering the highway must find their place in the queue. The drivers in the queue grow impatient for traffic to lightened and upset by new mergers. The drivers in the queue feel the need to switch lanes to allow for new mergers to enter the highway but create dangerous driving conditions in the process.

Ian Walker’s study had several factors that influenced behavior. The helmet is a major factor. Although cars drove closer to Walker when the helmet was in use, the helmet could have been a symbol of safety which in turn, makes Walker appear to be a smart and capable cyclist. The helmet could also indicate that he was not the type to make rash decisions while cycling (i, e., cycling directly into traffic). Another factor that came into play was gender. When walker was wearing a wig (trying to be perceived as a woman), he received more space on the road. The reasons behind it were unclear. Eye contact and hand signaling were two other factors. Non-verbal cues can indicate a lot from things like emotion to intent. Drivers were more cautious when they received a “look over the shoulder” than when they received a hand-arm indicator in which direction the cyclist was headed.

David Maister came up with several propositions which states:

  1. Being busy makes time feel like its going faster than when you aren’t busy,
  2. Time goes by faster with company,
  3. Knowing wait times puts drivers at ease as oppose to not knowing,
  4. If everyone is waiting then drivers are okay with it than oppose to the few drivers that are waiting.

When looking at how this applies to traffic, think of a scenario when one might be stuck in queue. Today even GPS devices are equipped with telling drivers ETA’s and when a delay is coming and for how long. All this is put into place to ease drivers in the queue. Some individuals may talk on the phone to pass the time by. On busier highways, signs are posted to tell drivers the amount of time before reaching a destination. All this is done to reduce the anxiety that drivers feel while driving.

The theorem of queuing states: it does not matter if there are multiple lines, the wait times are equal. People have “me” mentalities, when its someone’s turn in line, they want undivided attention on them. They do not want to split/share the attention with someone else in another line even though the wait times were near equal for both.

Loss aversion refers to the idea that humans hold onto to their losses as oppose to their gains. When in congested traffic, drivers are constantly seeking alternate routes and openings to get ahead of it all. Although they are cutting down on a minuscule amount of time of their overall driving time, the desire to get ahead outweighs the wait time of it all. Even though they may have passed several cars that they were once aligned with, their gains often go unnoticed and unappreciated.

Drivers are constantly bombarded with signs. Drivers are also completing tasks that seem easy to do such as talking on the phone, changing the radio station, monitoring traffic, etc. This creates a difficult course to drive. A driver is forced to be aware of all of their surroundings while figuring out how to be a competent driver. They are dealing with different terrains, whether that be; rain, ice, snow, hills, etc. Driving demands constant attention and focus. However, it still does not stop people from engaging in the mundane types of behavior while driving.

B) Feedback is essential to maintaining credibility. When driving, there is a certain level of anonymity, so every driver is relying on other drivers to drive well and follow the rules. The only feedback that most drivers are relying on is their own, which isn’t very reliable. Drivers consider themselves relatively safe and good drivers. The lack of feedback from others results in this over compensation of believing to be a good a driver despite evidence to the contrary.

The Virginia Tech transportation study done was trying to measure the amount of distracting activities one could have in their car. It was said that drivers get distracted by something in their vehicle 50% of the time. There were more than 1,600 crash events through the duration of the study. Finland studied the safety importance of the walking directions of pedestrians. Should they walk with traffic or towards traffic? According to this study, pedestrians need to towards the traffic rather than with it. There was a decrease with fatal and non- fatal injury accidents involving pedestrians.

The inattentional blindness study was created to show that people can miss something so big, or small, when being focused on something else. In the “Invisible Gorilla” study, you are told to watch the people in the white shirts and count the amount of times one of them passes the ball. A gorilla walks into the scene while you are counting, but most won’t notice because they are focused on counting the number of passes between the people in the white shirts.

People can be distracted on their phones, changing the radio station, looking at “google maps”, etc., while driving and miss things. A driver could miss a person running out into the street, or a car that just got into their blind spot. If a person is solely focused on the car in front of them, they increase their chances of missing something important and causing an accident or hurting someone walking. It is important to be aware of your surroundings while driving.

One of the major issues with speed is the drivers do not realize how fast or slow they are driving. When the queue line is already going 70 mph on the highway and drivers who are coming off the ramp to enter the highway, are not doing that, there is a sense of doubt. The incoming mergers aren’t accelerating to 70 mph to enter the highway. This creates difficulty for both mergers and drivers in the queue. When the mergers aren’t doing the same speed, then drivers in queue must slow down and wait for the to enter the queue. This creates a buildup.

When drivers are about to see a sudden drop in the speed limit, whether that be exiting the highway to enter the city, or if they are about to drive in a school zone, drivers tend to continue to speed. Most school zones are 25 mph. If a driver is going 45 mph and is asked to drop down to 25 mph, they feel as if they are going too slow, even though most of them are still going too fast.

Ants are known for their amazing collectiveness. This is something that humans can take away from that. As stated before, drivers have a “me” mentality. They assume that they are the most important person on the road, they’re the only one with somewhere to be, and that’s where problems come into play. If drivers drive with the thought of others in mind, then that would increase the collectiveness of traffic. If drivers were just on the same page about the rules for driving instead of doing what they perceive as best, then that would decrease the cannibalistic locus mentality in traffic.

When drivers drive solo, they tend to take more risks. Those drivers are more likely to not function as a collective. This can create tailgating issues. When the driver in front of the tailgate brakes, the tailgater then has to slam on their brakes to prevent a collision. However, given that the tailgater just slammed on the brakes, a collision further down the queue line can still occur since those drivers have less time to press the brakes. All attempts to relive that issue by monitoring and implementing distances between cars. If cars are maintaining a good amount of stopping distance between each of them, then rear- ended collisions would becomes a thing of the past.

When looking at busy cities whose primary mode of transportation is walking, engineers often fail to account for their commutes. The traffic lights have all been designed to ease the commute for drivers as oppose to walkers. However, since commuters on foot have not been given the same treatment as drivers, commuters on foot are finding themselves having to stop and go more frequently. Engineers tend to have a negative outlook on pedestrians thus creating an inherent bias towards them and their commute.

Slower can be faster when drivers are sitting in stop and go traffic. Due to drivers constantly switching lanes at any given opportunity they have, they create more congestion than there needs to be. Instead of being able to accelerate to a desired speed and having to come to a near stop later, driving at a lower speed can reduce the stop and goo feel of things. Recducing speed and going slower for a more continuous drive will feel faster than reaching a desired speed and having to stop and go excessively.

Traffic is never the same with any commute that a driver has. Construction, lane merges, the number of vehicles on the road are all variables that change in day to day life.Bus drivers receive the blunt of it all. Having to deal with any of the conditions presented above on top of driving during the week or driving during the weekend can cause anyone a great deal of stress. Bus drivers do not receive the applause that they deserve for dealing with that level of stress daily.

Drivers tend to want the best parking spaces. The best spaces are the ones directly in lined with the entrance to the facility. Most of those spaces are occupied in the rows in front of the entrance and tend to fan out towards the edges of the parking lot. This creates the Christmas tree style parking. There are two common strategies for parking. One being, choosing the desired row a driver wants to be in and then picking the closet open space in that row. The other is to wait for an opening closet to the door. This involves lurking and waiting for someone to exit the facility to their vehicle and following them there or waiting for someone to back out of a spot by the entrance of the facility and taking their place.

When it comes to street parking, the waiting game is what is called the “parking foreplay”. The driver sees a spot about to become available and moves into that spot when the other driver leaves. This is a chaotic process because the car waiting for the other driver to leave is blocking cars behind them from moving forward. The lane is unusable until the driver parks in that spot.

Free parking fills up fast and the amount time someone could spen parked there has no definite end. This could be a bad idea because with free parking comes searching for the desired space. Drivers are spending way more time looking for the desired space instead of just choosing an undesirable space and walking the remaining distance to their destination.

Shoup suggests charging a to park. One in which will create at least 15% of spaces open. So, spaces will never be fully occupied. This makes sense because it creates a supply and demand. Those willing to pay the price will do just that and those seeking free parking will just move on.

The reason why more lanes lead to more traffic is the fact that drivers that used to take street routes on their commute are now taking the highway. When the new lanes open up, the drivers may feel that the highway is a better and quicker way to travel. However, if enough people come to the same conclusion, several commuters will now be consuming the newly open lanes. This creates more congestion than before because more drivers are using it than before.

Another reason why more lanes could lead to more traffic is the uncooperativeness of others. Drivers make decisions for their car and their car alone. You go with what you know, and hope others won’t do the same. If drivers don’t take the same highway as you do, it’ll be less congestion, but if drivers do, then you’re stuck in the same dilemma you started with.

One solution to the congestion is paying a price. When drivers consider building more roads, the issue is that drivers are going to use these newly built roads. If you put a price on using the road the two things happen: 1. Drivers consider whether time save will equal the amount spent and 2. Drivers will now have to consider if its worth going out at all or to use alternative routes.

Dangerous roads causes heightened anxiety, which it turns leads to more cautious drivers. The road in it of itself is dangerous but drivers on that road as a collective are cautiously driving whish is safer for everyone. When waiting at traffic signals, drivers see a green light which tells them to go. This means that drivers aren’t taking into account pedestrians that may be crossing while they are turning or looking out for drivers that are running through red lights. Roundabouts eliminate those problems by getting rid of the traffic signals. In doing so, it forces drivers to be aware of their surroundings and aware of oncoming traffic. Traffic also stays flowing due to not having to wait for red lights or stop signs.

One way that roads have become safer is the use of rumble strips. If a driver is preoccupied with changing the radio station, rummaging through some old receipts, sending a text message, etc, then hitting the rumble strips are indicators that the driver has drifted out of their designated lane. Instead of resulting in an accident, it acts as a warning and a reminder to keep the driver’s eyes on the road.

Traffic calming is about slowing down a driver’s speed. Signs tell the driver very little if anything at all. For example, “Deaf Child Area” says very little to the driver. It doesn’t indicate the need to slow or to be on the lookout for children. Its simply stating matters of fact but not much else. Some ways traffic calming was instituted into everyday life was with use of speed bumps and speed tables. When a driver is approaching the traffic calming device at hand, they dropped their speed. As long as the bumps/tables were placed with fairly little space in between, then it was presumed effective by getting drivers to slow down.

Monderman believes traffic signs offer very little value to a driver’s life. They congest the streets instead of having drivers follow what they say (whatever they’re trying to indicate). Shared space can be considered the removal of “your lane, my lane” attitude. It forces drivers to be aware of the space that they are within and does the same for pedestrians. The lowering of curb height and the elimination of the bicycle lane showed that drivers were more inclined to slow down due to having a shared space with pedestrians and cyclist. It is not just about drivers having to be more cautious.

In the studies mentioned in the text, pedestrians having unmarked crosswalks tended to be more observant and cautious when crossing the street. The white lines that designates the walking space for pedestrians and the space for cyclist creates an illusion of safety and security. Pedestrians see the walk sign and start walking. However, parallel traffic can still turn creating potential accidents.

When comparing different driving systems, I had to consider which system is better at doing what? Is the system designed to transport as many people as possible? Is it designed to be safer when transporting? Is it seeking to accommodate drivers, cyclist and pedestrians alike? The list goes on and on. Each system is good at doing something.

Delhi—as hectic as their driving system may be—does transport a massive amount of people daily. Even more than New York. New York accommodates a lot of drivers and pedestrians. However, they tend to make up traffic rules as they go. An example would be jaywalking. Pedestrians don’t like waiting long times to cross the crosswalk. They simply cross when traffic is clear long enough for them to do so. Although, more accidents occur when someone follows the crosswalk, this doesn’t mean jaywalking is necessarily safer.

Another system similar to New York’s is Bejing. Commuters there, specifically pedestrians didn’t obey the traffic signals. The need to reach a destination outweighs the havoc a pedestrian may cause when crossing whenever they feel like it.

Finland is probably one of the safer places to drive which is also the driving system I agree with the most. I’ve always been a fan of giving out tickets and basing the amount of the ticket on how much a person makes. This is exactly what Finland has done. When drivers are placed in a position to pay higher fines based on income, then drivers may be more cautious as to how they are driving. The Finland workforce also have a high respect for the law. This in turn decreases the amount of corruption and makes roads safer.


  1. Traffic: why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us) Tom Vanderbilt – Alfred A. Knopf – 2010
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23040508
  3. https://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2016/02/022316-vtti-researchdistraction.html

Cite this paper

Features of Daily Basis Driving. (2022, Mar 18). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/features-of-daily-basis-driving/



What are the basics of driving?
The basics of driving are turning the wheel to steer, using the gas pedal to go, and the brake pedal to stop.
What are the characteristics of being a driver?
There are many characteristics of being a driver, but some of the most important ones are paying attention to your surroundings, being aware of the other vehicles on the road, and being able to control your own vehicle.
What are the components of driving?
The components of driving are the car, the road, and the driver.
What is considered a daily driver?
The first American literature was written in the 1600s by Puritan settlers. It was religious and moralistic in nature.
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