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Archive for February 9th, 2009

The Psychology of Aggression on the Highway

From Florida, where this sort of thing seems to happen inordinately, comes a classic tale of armed “road rage”:

Two men arrested in what could have been a disastrous road-rage shootout on Interstate 95 Sunday offered an insight into the psychology of aggression on the highway when each sought police to report the other’s actions, experts said…

The fact that each sought to report the other points to the extreme perspectives that can appear in a road-rage confrontation, said Dominik Guess, a University of North Florida associate professor of social and cognitive psychology.

“We don’t see the world how it is; we see the world through our own eyes,” said Guess, who studies decision-making as part of his research. Neither of the men probably believed they were wrong, he said.

In the end, however, both were arrested.

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Posted on Monday, February 9th, 2009 at 2:40 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
3 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

“Lost in the Shuffle”

Just following up on the recent multiple-offender DUI fatal crash in St. Louis, the Post-Dispatch writes:

The St. Louis County prosecutor wants to know why repeat DUI offender Newton M. Keene twice escaped potential felony charges that could have imprisoned him before his wrong-way car killed three people near Edwardsville last week.

It’s not certain that Keene would have gone to prison, Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch said in response to a reporter’s questions. But he said, “You’d certainly expect that a conviction on either one of them would put him in jail for a significant period of time.”

Hazelwood Police Chief Carl Wolf said he could not explain why one of his officers — later fired for unrelated reasons — did not pursue prosecution of Newton when he refused a breath test there in early 2006.

“All I can say is it got lost in the shuffle,” Wolf said Friday. “It should have never happened. … I’m upset because none of the supervisors followed up on it.”

(Thanks Jack)

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Posted on Monday, February 9th, 2009 at 11:58 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
1 Comment. Click here to leave a comment.

The Problem With ‘Shovel-Ready’ Thinking

Via Popular Mechanics:

There are no specific parameters or requirements that define shovel readiness. But according to civil engineers, the idea behind this new buzzword could help scuttle the stimulus bill’s highly publicized, though secondary, goal of infrastructure reform. At issue is that 90-day restriction stipulated by Congress, an even narrower window than the bill’s original 180-day limit. “They’re well intentioned, and they know their infrastructure sucks, so they’re trying to do immediate reactive management to what is a very deep, endemic problem,” says Robert Bea, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. “If you want to patch some potholes in the road, this is a good program. But if you’re hoping for anything long-term with this approach, throw away all hope. It can’t happen.”

The programs that would meet the bill’s 90-day restriction are, for the most part, an unappealing mix of projects that were either shelved after being fully designed and engineered, and have since become outmoded or irrelevant, or projects with limited scope and ambition. No one’s building a smart electric grid or revamping a water system on 90 days notice. The best example of a shovel-ready project, and what engineers believe could become the biggest recipient of the transportation-related portion of the bill’s funding, is road resurfacing—important maintenance work, but not a meaningful way to rein in a national infrastructure crisis. “In developing countries, there are roads that are so bad, they create congestion, because drivers are constantly forced to slow down,” says David Levinson, an associate professor in the University of Minnesota’s civil engineering department. “That’s not the case here. If the road’s a little bit rougher, drivers will feel it, but that’s not going to cause you to go any slower. So the economic benefit of those projects is pretty low.”

I would only disagree in that NYC, there are some roads that are so bad they make you slow down, but the benefit here is that it acts as passive (and inexpensive) traffic calming.

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Posted on Monday, February 9th, 2009 at 11:50 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
4 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Why Ants Don’t Get Stuck in Traffic, Revisited

Ant lane discipline and socially optimally network routing are old faves around here, and I just broached the subject on this past weekend’s Good Morning America, but Wired hits the ant traffic trail with news of an enticing new study by entomologist Audrey Dussutour.

In the latest findings, published in the February issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology, Dussutour’s team found that ants leaving the colony automatically gave right-of-way to those returning with food. Of the returning ants, some were empty-mandibled — but rather than passing their leaf-carrying, slow-moving brethren, they gathered in clusters and moved behind them.

This seemingly counterintuitive strategy — when stuck behind a slow-moving truck, are you content to slow down? — actually saved them time.

“Leafcutters paths in particular look very much like car traffic,” said Dussutour. “There’s a lot of times on the highway when you’re stuck behind a truck, and sometimes overtaking it is not optimal.”

The results are an example of how individual behaviors optimized to serve a collective good can ultimately benefit the individual as well. If humans would let a network take the wheel, these principles might manage our own congested thoroughfares…

…If ants in the experiment behaved like the average human driver, they’d routinely run head-first into each other, causing insect versions of pile-ups and gridlock. Dussutour’s team calculated that patience reduced the average delay experienced by an individual ant crossing a crowded three-meter bridge from 64 to 32 seconds.

“One dominating factor in human traffic is egoism,” said University of Zoln traffic flow theorist Andreas Schadschneider. “Drivers optimize their own travel time, without taking much care about others. This leads to phantom traffic jams which occur without any obvious reason. Ants, on the other hand, are not egoistic.”

Humans, meanwhile, who are busily updating their “25 Random Things About Me” entries on their Facebook pages, could not be reached for comment.

Full story after the jump…
(more…)

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Posted on Monday, February 9th, 2009 at 11:06 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
2 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Red-Light and Speed Cameras As Expenditure Reducers

Road crashes cost at least $20 billion a year, leaving aside the human suffering.

So the usual accusations of “revenue raising” directed at Chief Minister Jon Stanhope’s proposal this month for point-to-point speed cameras was misplaced. Speed and red-light cameras are not revenue raisers. They are expenditure reducers. A large portion of the $20 billion comes out of government coffers: public hospitals, rescue; rehabilitation; disabled pensions and so on. The most recent Bureau of Transport Economics paper suggests about a fifth of the cost is borne by government

To the extent speed cameras reduce speeding and road crashes, they save government money. To take the argument to the extreme, if speed cameras were so blanketed as to ensure total compliance with speed limits, they would raise no revenue. But they would cut the road toll by at least a third – a saving of more than $1 billion a year to Australian taxpayers.

An interesting way of reframing, from a good piece by Australian journalist — the figures he cites are from Australia — Crispin Hull titled “A New Attitude to Speeding Needed.” (or after the jump)

(Horn honk to Michael Paine)
(more…)

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Posted on Monday, February 9th, 2009 at 10:43 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
9 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.
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 Slate.com Transport column to me at: info@howwedrive.com.

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage: krunde@randomhouse.com.

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency: zoe@zpagency.com.

For speaking engagement inquiries, please contact
Kim Thornton at the Random House Speakers Bureau: rhspeakers@randomhouse.com.

Order Traffic from:

Amazon | B&N | Borders
Random House | Powell’s

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

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
Toronto

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
BoingBoing.com “Ingenuity” Conference
San Francisco, CA

September 26, 2013
TransComm 2013
(Meeting of American Association
of State Highway and Transportation
Officials’ Subcommittee on Transportation
Communications.
Grand Rapids MI

 

 

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