Interview with Leon James:

Jornal Valor  Sao Paulo, Brazil Claudio Cordovil  May 28, 2000

 

Claudio Cordovil:  How many deaths are caused by road rage each year?

 

Leon James:   Some people restrict the phrase road rage to assault and battery committed

by one driver against another after getting into a dispute over driving. In the U.S.

this occurs about 1200 a year, and it is rising by about 6% per year.

 

Others, including myself and the government and safety experts, define

road rage and aggressive driving together. It is more common in

legislation to use the phrase "aggressive driving legislation" rather than

road rage legislation. This is because aggressive driving does not usually

involve assault or battery.

 

A few vocal groups, now growing every year, disagree that traffic

violations should be considered "aggressive driving."

In terms of numbers, I estimate that every driver experiences road rage

EMOTIONS on every trip, several times a day.

 

Claudio Cordovil:   Do you believe that we must consider road rage as a kind of public health problem?

 

Leon James:   Road rage and aggressive driving are public health issues. First because

of the incidence:

**200 billion road rage exchanges a year in the U.S.

**42,000 fatalities a year, most of which could be avoided

**6 million crashes, 4 million injuries, 250 billion dollars cost

 

All this for one year adds up to an epidemic. Then you must add the stress

and pollution factors as additional costs. Each of the 200 billion

incidents of road rage or hostile exchanges creates some stress. Each

added stress level has negative consequences on health, lowering immune

system functioning, and increasing cardio-vascular damage.

 

In terms of pollution, the cost runs into billions of dollars a year when

you consider (a) how many extra and unnecessary times drivers use the gas

pedal then the break due to road rage, impatience, aggressiveness; This

requires extra fuel for every driver per year. More oil imports, higher

prices per gallon, and more pollution in the air that has further economic

and health consequences.

 

How did I arrive at 400 billion road rage exchanges? Multiply this:

125 million drivers in the US every day X 365 days X 10 hostile aggressive

road rage exchanges per trip = a little over 400 billion (and this is a

conservative estimate. Try it on your own: next time you drive, how many

times do you get angry or hostile or annoyed at another driver?)

 

Claudio Cordovil:  What aggressive road rage is becoming more common?

In terms of assault and battery: shooting and using the car to ram

someone.

 

In terms of aggressive behavior: running red lights, not yielding, lane

hopping, insulting gestures and words, driving and drinking, speeding. The

new aggressive driving laws in 16 states propose that aggressive driving

be defined as 3 or more traffic infractions committed within a few minutes

or miles, as observed by an officer.

 

Claudio Cordovil:  Is road rage increasing?

 

Leon James:   Yes. As congestion increases, drivers are more challenged emotionally to

remain civilized and polite. This is possible to learn, but they need to

be taught self-modification techniques. Please mention my Web site

DrDriving.org where people can obtain information on such techniques. Also

please mention my new book that offers such information:

Leon James and Diane Nahl:   ROAD RAGE AND AGGRESSIVE DRIVING

 

In addition to congestion, we are making aggressiveness to be a learned

generational habit. We are teaching our children now to grow up to be

aggressive drivers by the way we behave in the car when they ride with

us. Also, TV, cartoons, movies, and commercials all portray drivers behaving badly,

and children learn from that by imitation and modeling. So

aggressive driving will increase with every generation, unless

counteracted by new education.

 

I have a Web site devoted to aggressive driving prevention activities

parents can do with their children.

or else just go to the main site at http://DrDriving.org  and link from

there. CARR stands for Children Against Road Rage and I believe we owe our

children this prevention program. Driver education should start in grade

1, not in high school. I provide details of a Lifelong Driver

Self-Improvement Program in my Congressional testimony on the Web:

 

Claudio Cordovil:  Are there differences in aggressive driving across countries--
is it a universal epidemic?
 

Leon James:   Yes, it is universal. I follow Newsgroups on the Web with participating

drivers from England, Australia, Canada, Singapore, India, etc. Same thing

everywhere. I consulted with officials from the Motor Vehicle Department

in China where they have a road rage epidemic among their 17 million

commercial drivers. I also created a course for law enforcement to deal

with the problem and the San Antonio police department is now distributing

TEE Cards at traffic stops. These cards are driver education cards I

created. See this Web site on TEE Cards. I also consult with trucking safely schools

and emergency vehicle operators. It's the same problem everywhere.

 

Claudio Cordovil:  Why car industry doesn't engage in the war against road rages by the

creation of technical devices that punishes that kind of behavior?

For example, the fitting of long sharps spikes sticking out from the

center of every steering wheel pointing to the heart of each driver

engaged in rage or being alcohol impaired?

 

Leon James:  I think there needs to be a greater awareness that the problem can be

solved without punishing the drivers, but retraining them. Law enforcement

and punishment will only go so far in solving the problem. The true

solution lies in a lifelong self-improvement program such as I have

proposed. It's called Quality Driving Circles or QDCs. These are small

groups of 6 to 10 drivers meeting regularly and helping one another carry

out self-improvement activities. I recommend the threestep program.

 

Claudio Cordovil:   What is the efficacy of psychotherapeutic-like techniques in order to

deal with that problem? What is the approach that you recommend?

 

Leon James:  You can't give everybody psychotherapy. Besides, aggressive driving is

normal. Part of our socialization process. Now we need to change that

socialization process.

 

Claudio Cordovil:  Can it be seen as a symptom of society's growing loss of

community, a decay of moral values?

Leon James:   People need to realize that the opposite of aggressive driving is

supportive driving. This means seeing it as a community task, not as a war

or competitive sport. With a teamwork orientation, driving can be a

community builder by everyone being nice to each other, just as in a

family. We can switch if we make it into a national and educational

priority.

 

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