Learn about numerous complexities of driving in ‘Traffic’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 29, 2014

SALISBURY — The car has been a part of American life for many years and whether we see it as a symbol of freedom or a symptom of sprawl, we define ourselves by how and what we drive. In the book “Traffic,” Tom Vanderbilt writes about how traffic has shaped human nature and vice versa.
Based on his detailed research and interviews with experts around the world, “Traffic” kicks the tires of that everyday activity we call driving. It turns out that it is a surprisingly complex mix of technical, physical and psychological factors woven together that explains how traffic works and why we drive the way we do. In it he answers many of drivers’ most nagging questions: Why does the other lane always seem faster? Why does adding more lanes bring more cars and more congestion? Does anybody signal anymore?
For this well-written and researched book he interviewed traffic reporters, traffic engineers, psychologists studying human-machine interactions and Dutch urban planners who design intersections with no pavement markings, traffic signs or signals.
Backed up by an impressive amount of psychological, sociological, historical, anecdotal and economic research, the book is engaging and sobering. His findings reveal how little attention drivers pay to the road and how frequently they misjudge crucial information, referring to traffic as “an environment that has become so familiar we no longer see it.”
For those of us who aren’t brain surgeons, driving is the most complex everyday thing we do. It is a skill that consists of 1,500 mini skills. At any given moment, we are navigating terrain, maintaining our position, judging speed, evaluating risk and anticipating the future actions of others. All of that while sipping a coffee, quieting a toddler, thinking about last night’s television episode or checking a voice mail.
One study of a section of road in Maryland found that drivers were presented a piece of information every two feet. That translates to about 440 words per minute, or reading three paragraphs like this while looking at lots of pictures, and then repeating for every minute of driving. Traffic is available for checkout from the library or downloading from North Carolina Digital Library. Just don’t read it while driving; traffic isn’t getting any better.
Summer movie series — The library offers movie night every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at RPL headquarters in Salisbury and at South Rowan Regional at 2 p.m. Wednesdays. Movies are free and all ages are welcome. Children should be accompanied by an adult. Free popcorn and lemonade.
At headquarters: this Tuesday, “The Time Traveler’s Wife (PG13); July 9, “Around the World in 80 Days” (PG); July 15, “Zathura: A Space Adventure” (PG); July 22, “Timeline” (PG13); July 29, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” (PG).
At South Regional (China Grove): this Wednesday, “The Lorax” (PG); July 9 “Around the World in 80 Days” (PG); July 16, “Zathura: A Space Adventure” (PG); July 23, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” (PG); July 30, “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” (PG).
Summer reading for children — The library invites children to celebrate science and reading with Fizz, Boom, Read. Reading hours may be tracked now. Prizes for every 5, 10, 15 and 20 hours read with door prizes given at the school-aged programs.
Weekly programs run until July 31. RPL staff will be on hand to entertain the youngest participants and professional performers will help captivate the school-age children. Family programs will again be offered at Cleveland Town Hall and reading hours can be tracked there at the time of the program.
This week’s program is Ro and Mo, Stories, Songs and Silliness. For a complete schedule of programs, go to the library website or call your closest location: Headquarters, 704-216-8234; South, 704-216-7728; East, 704-216-7842.
The library will have a literacy workshop for parents of children up to age 5 on Monday, June 30, at 6:30 p.m. The workshop is free but registration is required and space is limited. Register by calling 704-216-8234.
Teen summer reading: Teens may participate in Spark a Reaction where they will explore science through programs and reading. Through July 31, all rising sixth-graders to 12th-graders are invited to participate. Programs will be held 3:30-5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Headquarters; Wednesdays, East Branch, Rockwell; Thursdays, South Rowan Regional, China Grove. This week’s program is Crime Scene Investigation: fingerprints, black lights and more. Every teen who registers receives a booklet for keeping track of the library dollars they earn. Those dollars will be used to enter raffles for prizes provided by the Friends of RPL and other local sponsors. Winners will be announced at the end of the summer Blow Out Blast at South Rowan Regional on July 31, 3:30–5 p.m.
Approaching Star Trek: Headquarters: July 21, 6:30 p.m.; South Regional, July 22, 6:30 p.m. What are we learning about life here on Earth? What are we learning about our universe? Is life “out there” really possible? This workshop will be led by Jack Howard, a physics and astronomy instructor at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. His first work in astronomy was variable star research at Kitt Peak National Observatory, and he has a master’s degree in astronomy from James Cook University. For more details visit www.rowanpublilibrary.org and click on the Events for Adults tab.
Book Bites Club: South Regional (only), July 29, 6:30 p.m., “The Help,” by Kathryn Stockett. Book discussion groups for adults and children meet the last Tuesday of each month. The group is open to the public and anyone is free to join at any time. There is a discussion of the book, as well as light refreshments at each meeting. For more information, please call 704-216-8229.
Library closings: July 4 and 5, for Independence Day. Regular hours resume Monday, July 7.
Displays for June: Headquarters, doll society; South, fiber items by Rowan Fiber Guild; East, “Winnie the Pooh,” by Kim Davis.
Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second language.