There’s More To Better Mobility Than Getting Your Way on the Road

Screen shot 2015-06-17 at 2.09.39 PMMovability staff went for Green Drinks last week at Treehouse to talk about commute options. When it came time for questions, the first one we received was one that says a lot about our understanding of mobility: “I went to Europe and everywhere I went people moved to the right to get out of the way for faster driving vehicles. Why don’t Americans do that?”

Despite some mundane differences, like speed limits, we did find some interesting facts that may answer that question, and they have to do with our psychology when driving.

Drivers feel like they’re both part of a group and at the same time, cut off, since when they’re driving alone, they’re essentially in little shells. That set of circumstances leads to what’s known as “deindividuation,” a loss of self-awareness and also individual accountability, writes Bryan Gardiner in this Slate article on why we’re kind of jerks when we drive.

Tom Vanderbilt in his book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do, dedicates his first Chapter “Why Does the Other Lane Always Seem Faster? How Traffic Messes with Our Heads,” to walking the reader through example after example of how we consistently act in a self-centered way because we have limited communications and limited eye contact with other drivers when we’re in our cars, cues that lead to us acting one way in person and another in a vehicle.

Now that you have a better understanding of why Americans may be bad drivers, let’s get back to the question: why are Europeans better drivers? As it turns out that there are probably a lot of factors to why we drive differently than our counterparts across the pond. Here are some of the more prevalent theories:

  • European driver training is taken much more seriously and it is more difficult to get a license.
  • Europeans drive less. In 2010, Americans drove for 85 percent of their daily trips, compared to car trip shares of 50 to 65 percent in Europe.
  • Significant cultural differences, including the fact that Americans are more likely to be in a hurry, rushing from one place to the next.

There’s more to better transportation than having cars pull over for you to drive fast; if you really want a better mobility experience, drive less and walk/bike/transit more, and stop to smell the latte more often. We at Movability are happy to help you adopt any of these new habits.

Comments are closed.