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driving

Mar 15 2013

Red Means Go

by Veronica W

Imagine this. You are driving down a two lane road, traffic in one lane going east, the other travelling west. The eastbound lane, (yours, of course) is bumper-to-bumper, for some reason in the far distance. Suddenly you see in your side mirror that the driver of a car several lengths behind you, has decided not to wait and has shot out into the westbound lane.  He travels about twenty five feet, then makes a left turn onto a side street,  narrowly escaping a collision with 06-Prepare-to-be-Annoyeda car heading west. I don’t have to imagine this scenario because I have seen it, not once, not twice but three times in as many months.

I learned to drive in New York City, famous for its Andretti style driving.  In fact, I was told that Atlanta’s helter skelter traffic is due to all the transplanted, bad driving northerners who have invaded the Georgia roadways.  While I don’t know about that, I do know that once you’ve driven in gypsy cab land,—aka Manhattan—you can drive pretty much anywhere (…in the U.S. anyway. I hear driving in China is almost surreal). However what happens on the roads today can stress even the most skilled driver, because sometimes it’s impossible to defend yourself against the jaw-dropping, aberrant behavior of other drivers (road construction requires another post).

Tom Vanderbilt has written an informative but highly entertaining book entitled Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What it Says About Us).  For those people who want to listen to something while they drive, it comes in audio book form as well as print. In this book, these questions are answered:

  • Why I Became a Late Merger (and Why You Should Too)
  • Why Does the Other Lane Always Seem Faster
  • Why You’re Not as Good a Driver as You Think You Are
  • Why Ants Don’t Get into Traffic Jams (and Humans Do)
  • Why Women cause More Congestion Than Men (and Other Secrets of Traffic)
  • Why More Roads Lead to More Traffic (and What to Do About It)
  • How Traffic Explains the World

Ronin. Bullitt. What’s Up Doc?. Gone in 60 SecondsThe Bourne Identity.  What do all of these movies have in common? They are all on the Best Car Chase Movies of All Time list. I love car chase movies and  reality is suspended as I watch the mayhem caused by a car hurtling through a crowded street.  I’m not so thrilled when I witness the same recklessness on I-285. Although in my younger years I loved speed, today I often stay in the right lane; not because there is less lead in my foot but because sometimes I think the other two lanes are reserved for the racers. By the way, a car salesman recently told me the 4 cylinder is the new 6 cylinder, the 6 is the new 8, etc.  Hmmm. I wondered why all those little cars seemed so peppy.

Now that you are playing with the idea of leaving your car at home, how will you get to where you need to go?  The “MARTA is smarter” people advocate public transportation.  Fitness folk suggest you walk… or at the very least, ride a bicycle. Since none of these options are viable choices for me, I’ve decided it’s less aggravating to care for and feed a horse. Buggies are optional.

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Nov 17 2008

Got the traffic blues?

by Amanda L

If you are like me, you spend a lot of your time and money driving around Atlanta to get to work, shopping, etc. In fact, according to statistics I found using our database Demographics Now (listed under the Business section of our Reference Database page ), citizens in DeKalb spent on average per household $2,375.13 last year (2007) in gas. That is a lot of driving! Over seventy-six percent of the people living in DeKalb own one or two cars per household.

I am always looking for ways to minimize my driving time and cut my transportation costs. The Georgia Department of Transportation has several tools to help us stay out of the traffic blues. They have a website that you can check anytime to see traffic conditions around Atlanta and the state.

Interested in where the accidents and construction delays are on your side of town? You can sign up for a My Navigator Account. This account will let you create a Personal Traffic Page, set up e-mail Traffic Alerts, and more.

In fact, if you use iGoogle, you can have incidents and construction delays displayed right on your personal Google page.  Traveling around and hit a wall of traffic and want to know if there is an accident? You can dial 511 from any phone and get traffic updates. You can also get weather conditions, report an accident or request vehicle assistance. On the other hand, you can also talk to a live operator by dialing *dot.

Looking for away to pass your time away while you are traveling? The library has a variety of audio books. We offer them in cd, cassette and downloadable formats. We also have a variety of music cds that can help pass the time as you work your way through the streets of Atlanta.

Looking for a new or used vehicle that might get better gas mileage? The library subscribes to Consumer Reports that can help give you car ratings on new and used vehicles. Want to know whether to trade in your gas-guzzler for a new hybrid? Smart Money magazine has an interactive feature that can help you determine if it is economical for you to buy a new hybrid and sell your current car.

Why is that driver is in the next car is driving that way? You might want to check out the book Traffic: why we drive the way, we do by Tom Vanderbilt. The author researched and interviewed many driving experts and traffic officials about why we drive the way we do. The book looks at the psychological, physical and technical factors that explain why we drive, what causes traffic jams and what our driving says about us. We also have the book in audiobook format for those who want to listen why you drive. I hope that some of these sources can help you beat the traffic blues!

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Oct 9 2008

Don’t Resist, Save Gas!

by Jimmy L

If you’re looking for more ways to save gas (and thus, money!), then here is something you’ve probably never thought about before, but can make a big difference.  Cars have an optimal speed for gas efficiency, and that speed is around 60mph or less.  “In a typical family sedan, every 10 miles per hour you drive over 60 is like the price of gasoline going up about 54 cents a gallon,” according to this CNN article.  The reason is simply air resistance!  The savings can really add up, especially if you do a lot of highway driving.

Interested in other ways to save gas?  Check out these older (but still relevant) blog posts:

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200pxjonathan_strange_and_mr_norrelLike many Metro Atlanta residents, I am a commuter.  My drive from home to work and back totals about an hour and a half, and that’s on good days.  This long commute, while it takes away from time I could be spending with my family, has allowed me the opportunity to explore some books that I probably wouldn’t take the time to read if I weren’t able to listen to them.  I found the Harry Potter series this way and made my way through the compendious Lord of the Rings trilogy (unabridged).  Some people consider this “cheating” somehow, but I tend to see it as enjoying the lost art of good storytelling, and getting to enjoy books I otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to read.

My interest was piqued when I first heard of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell a couple of years ago.  As I browsed our audio book section recently, I came across a copy on CD and checked it out.  At 26 discs, I knew this would be a big time commitment, but what more do I have to do when I’m edging up I-285?  The story, like the Lord of the Rings, is paced and very descriptive, of people, places, and histories.  Susanna Clarke’s prose and subject matter is reminiscent of Jane Austen’s dry wit and focus on English upper class concerns.

Clarke’s early-nineteenth-century England has a long history of magic.  “Theoretical” magicians, or scholars of English magic, read and discuss and form societies of magicians.  But magic left England hundreds of years before with the departure of the renowned but mysterious Raven King.  Soon, a society of Yorkshire magicians discover that Mr. Norrell, a reclusive and fussy old bachelor in Yorkshire, possesses an extraordinary library of important books of magic, and the magicians bargain away their right to study magic to see an example of Mr. Norrell’s practical magic.  Mr. Norrell’s astonishing demonstration begins the return of English magic, and soon, Mr. Norrell and his charming and adventurous pupil Jonathan Strange are known around the country as the only practicing magicians in England.  They embark, together and then separately, to bring about the return of magic to England, and do so in fascinating and world-changing ways.

Simon Prebble’s reading is superb as he narrates the very long tale and subtly adds dimension to the story’s characters in his voicing of them.  He also adds interest to the copious footnotes throughout the story, that I’m sure I would have glossed over if I were reading the print edition of the book.  Overall, this compelling and mesmerizing tale is very much worth the time commitment involved.

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