Road Warrior: The Traffic Test 2

Based on your feedback, you all had fun with "Traffic True or False," but you wanted more from the psychological angle... so here are some tidbits that may surprise, enrage or even just tickle you a little.

Previous Story: The Traffic Test: Traffic psychology that may surprise you

Today's fun facts come, once again, from the book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do by Tom Vanderbilt.

First, we've seen a substantial increase in traffic congestion since the 1950s. Why? Tom says we owe it to the ladies. There are more of us in the workforce these days, and we're making more daily trips to pick up, drop off and basically move the family around. But if we turn our focus to non-recurring traffic congestion, according to the Federal Highway Administration, men are actually more responsible for accidents, particularly serious ones, and the resulting back-ups.

So, who's to blame when we're hitting the breaks? Turns out, it's a toss up.

Just to add to that, coffee is also responsible for an increase in traffic congestion... and fellas, once again, this one's yours. When Starbucks added drive-thrus to many locations, middle-aged men started making more coffee-stops, adding to the total number of trips happening on the roads each day. Research says women are more likely to stop at Starbucks if it's on their way to or from somewhere on their to-do list, while men will go out of their way to hit up the coffee shop drive-through, especially when their leaving home for work.

10 News Editorial: Bad driving is for the birds

Here's a fun one: have you ever noticed the odd way people park in large lots like at the grocery store or the mall? From above, it looks a lot like a Christmas tree. The lanes directly across from the store tend to fill up quickly, even though spaces in adjacent rows may actually be closer to the store entrance.

Vanderbilt's research suggests that this is because drivers are not very good at geometry, especially at ground level. Think of it in terms of watching a football game on TV or from high in the stands. You may wonder why on earth the running back didn't target that giant gap you saw from above. His perspective on the ground is a lot different, and chances are, he didn't see it the same way you did, if he saw it at all.

Also, women tend to drive around parking lots looking for a space longer than men who, research says, just pick a row then park in the closest space. Surveys have revealed that men tend to underestimate how long it will take them to walk somewhere, while women overestimate it.

Parents of teenage boys who drive, you undoubtedly know that your son falls into the category of "most likely to be involved in a traffic incident" - his insurance premiums prove that assessment. You may also know he is more likely to have an accident with a passenger or two to distract him, but did you know, he is less likely to crash when his passenger is female? See -- chivalry isn't dead. Young men tend to either perceive female passengers as precious cargo, or they are out to make an impression with their superior driving skills.

Finally, the concept of "slower means faster." When there's congestion on a major thoroughfare like a highway, I will offer you an alternate route. Most times, the alternate involves a road with traffic signals versus the highway with none.

So, technically, sitting in traffic on the highway may actually be faster than exiting and dealing with signals, but because most drivers perceive more frequent movement at what feels like a typical speed as getting somewhere quicker, we are happy to equate slower with faster just to avoid sitting still.

To learn more about Tom Vanderbilt's book, you can log onto To learn more about CUTR or USF's "Center for Urban Transportation Research", log onto


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