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Schott’s Traffic Miscellany

I picked up the immensely pleasurable Schott’s Miscellany 2009 last night and was delighted to find a number of traffic-related nuggets.

A few:

Which state has the most drivers per 1000 pop.? Connecticut, with 800.

The fewest: New York, 577.

The state with the most miles of road is, not surprisingly, Texas; but I was surprised by the third entry: Kansas. Where does everyone go in Kansas?

I also learned that in 1996, 40.6% of 16 year-olds held a driver’s license; by 2006 that figure was 29.8% (not a bad thing, in my mind, as GDL is arguably the only teen driver intervention to show significant results; as someone recently joked to me at a traffic conference, ‘we should lower the drinking age to 16 and raise the driving age to 21′).

Then there’s an item from CNW Research about one’s car color and ‘how they felt about life.’ Weirdly, ‘sunny yellow’ drivers were 3.7 below the average. But as Schott notes, “clearly, more robust measures of mental health exist.”

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This entry was posted on Friday, April 3rd, 2009 at 6:41 am and is filed under Etc.. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

8 Responses to “Schott’s Traffic Miscellany”

  1. Amy Says:

    “Where does everyone go in Kansas?”

    They are on their way to the next state. No one stops in Kansas.

  2. Beany Says:

    I rode (on bicycle) through part of south eastern Kansas recently and found that many of the roads are not exactly paved. Dirt roads and crumbling highways are all featured on their maps. And on the state highways, despite what the average daily traffic may have been, it’s still far too much for a bicyclist to deal with while riding.

  3. scott Says:

    1) You are making fun of a state and you obviously know nothing about the state and the people who call it home.
    2) You are not thinking critically about the popular misconception about Kansas. As a reader of your blog that makes me cautious regarding your future writings.
    3) What is your point exactly? Is it that you prefer states that are nothing but megalopolises?

  4. Sean Brown Says:

    That “joke” is more of a reality in Western Europe. For example, in Germany the drinking age for beer is (nominally) 16, though it is common for 14-15 year-olds to be served as well. However, the minimum age to obtain a license is 18 – and to get it, you must spend $1000-2000 on lessons and take a relatively rigorous skills test. Because of this, many Germans wait until they are in university to get a license.

    Meanwhile, here in Texas I was driving with a parent at age 15 with literally no road experience. At 16, I was driving on my own with zero formal lessons. To obtain my license, my parents checked off a sheet – which is regularly falsified – saying they had “taught” me for at least 20 hours. My mom made me take an easy, no-highway 10-minute in-car test at the DMV, which is actually optional (at the parents’ discretion).

    All this, and at age 20, having lived or spent extensive time in Asia, South America, and Europe (where the drinking ages normally from 15-18 and are laxly enforced) I feel like a 2nd-class citizen in my own country, where I can’t even enter the vast majority of bars or lounges when with my 21 and 22-year-old friends. As a side note, I rarely drink or drive anyway, and NEVER in combination.

  5. Aaron W. Says:

    Tom, in many midwestern states where there is a heavy agricultural presence the landscape is essentially divided with some sort of road every mile. This means that smaller states such as Iowa, Kansas, etc. end up having lots of roads. States like CA, while large have heavy concentrations of roads in urban areas and large swaths of land with no roads at all.

  6. Kyle Schneweis Says:

    I work for the DOT in Kansas, and use the “3rd in the nation” stat in speeches and presentations all the time. The over 140,000 miles of road stems from a heavy agricultural economy, very flat terrain, and a severe lack of statewide transportation planning in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

    The vast majority of these roads are dirt surfaced and are under the jurisdiction of county governments. Many counties peaked in population in the late 1800s and as such there are some real challenges in maintaining such an extensive road network. For example, there are 69 counties with less than 10 people per mile of public road, the winner being Greeley County with 1,400 people and 1,000 miles of road.

    Of course most of these roads are very sparsely traveled, with less than 25 or 50 vehicles per day. But closing these roads is not easy, as people do still live on them and farm machinery still uses them. Some counties have gotten proactive and have gone to a 2-mile grid, but at this point the vast majority lack the political will to do so.

  7. Tom Vanderbilt Says:

    Kyle, and others, thanks for the good explanation. And this was no dig at Kansas; I was simply surprised at its high road ranking, compared to obvious candidates like Texas and California, versus its population. And Kyle’s stats are amazing; 1400 people and 1000 miles of road! Assuming the number of actual drivers is somewhere below that, that’s something like a personal mile of road for every driver. Interesting to see the Jeffersonian grid still having implications today.

  8. Kyle Schneweis Says:

    Tom – no dig at Kansas perceived… As I travel throughout the state and talk about the sustainability of the local road network there are obviously certain rural sensitivites that one must acknowledge, but I’ve found that data and straight talk are usually well received.

    I hadn’t thought of comparing miles to licensed drivers, I’ll look into it. I have also been thinking about ways to compare the road system to the tax base, as an aging population is another challenge that many of these rural communities face.

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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 Slate.com Transport column to me at: info@howwedrive.com.

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