Fascinating Nuggets About Traffic

Mary Roach gleans these nuggets in her review of a new book on traffic:

  • 12.7 percent of the traffic slowdown after a crash has nothing to do with wreckage blocking lanes; it’s caused by gawkers.
  • In a study of one 15-block area near U.C.L.A., cars were logging, on an average day, 3,600 miles in pursuit of a place to park.
  • The Hebrew calendar is programmed into about 75 signal lights in Los Angeles. This is done to enable Sabbath-observant Jews to cross the street without pushing a button and violating the ban on operating machinery.
  • Nearly 80 percent of crashes involve drivers not paying attention for up to three seconds. Thus the places that seem the most dangerous — narrow roads, hairpin turns — are rarely where people mess up. “Most crashes,” Vanderbilt writes, “happen on dry roads, on clear, sunny days, to sober drivers.” For this reason, roads that could be straight are often constructed with curves — simply to keep drivers on the ball.
  • A study that followed 24 intersections that had been converted from signals or stop signs to roundabouts showed an almost 90 percent drop in fatal crashes after the change.
  • For similar reasons, S.U.V.’s are more dangerous than cars. Not just because they’re slower to stop and harder to maneuver, but because — by conferring a sense of safety — they invite careless behavior. “The safer cars get,” Vanderbilt says, “the more risks drivers choose to take.”
4 comments on “Fascinating Nuggets About Traffic
  • I must quibble with that “most accidents happen to sober drivers” portion. If carried out to the logical extreme, that would mean that inebriated drivers are less likely to have an accident than sober ones. That goes against most data I’ve heard of, and if true would call for a massive rethinking of our laws against drunk driving.

    If by “most accidents happen to sober drivers” she means that there are more total accidents to sober people, that is uninteresting, because surely there are many more sober drivers as well.

  • On point #3 – religion messing with traffic signals? The reason is even more eccentric… Could it not lead to disasters if there is a program malfunction?

    Much more serious than French universities banning Muslim women wearing scarfs/hijabs and British institutional hostility to Sikhs wearing Turbans and Kirpans…

  • If we suddenly instituted a policy to alternate driving on the other side of the road, would it heighten our acuteness and lessen the number of accidents?

    I do like the logic behind constructing curved roads. I wonder how this line of thinking influences motorcycle accidents.

  • @Krishna:

    Why would the program crash? I would imagine that all they had done was to merely bypass the need for a manually produced walk signal and have an automatic 60 second or so walk signal appear (Where I live in near DC most lights have this automatic feature all the time). Religous jews walk alot on their Sabbath, going to the temple to pray and visiting each other. They also tend to have a lot of little kids. Having an automatic signal creates a safer environment for both the pedestrians and the drivers. Also, you are comparing racial descrimination (not allowing people to wear traditional religous gear for whatever reason) to what is in my opinion a nice, safe accomadation for residents of certain areas of LA. What the hell does descrimination have to do with tolerance? Are you trying to say that these people should not be accomadated, just as others are unfairly descriminated against? Also, even if for whatever reason automatic signals were not provided for these people, I doubt that decrimination would be a factor.

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