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Interview with Leon James

Humber College, Toronto, Canada Amanda Daponte October 2001 

Why did you decide to start "driving psychology?"

Driving psychology is the name I selected for our research on drivers and driving behavior. Driver education teaches about driving while driving psychology teaches about the driver. I think the two should be combined.

What exactly is road rage?

Road rage is a way of driving that is anti-social and dangerous. It manifests itself in the driver's emotions, thinking, and bodily reactions such as perception and motor responses. Driving in as state of road rage involves having negative emotions like frustration and anger, negative thoughts like fantasies of violence and interpreting the actions of others as an insult. As a result of these negative emotions and thoughts, our body acts negatively as well such as hostile gestures or words, and impulsive or risky maneuvers behind the wheel.

Do you believe it's a mental thing that leads people to act the way they
do when driving?

Our driving is a combination of feeling (or emotion), thinking, and doing. The three act together. If we begin to feel compassion or a cooperative attitude in traffic, it's easier to think positive thoughts, and the two together lead to tolerant behavior and avoidance of risk.

What is the cause of road rage, or what do you believe it is?

Road rage is a cultural habit or norm. We learn road rage in childhood onward as we are driven around by parents and other adults. then this aggressive attitude behind the wheel gets further reinforced by TV shows that portray drivers behaving badly, enjoying it, and getting away with it. By the time we obtain a license and rive, we are rigged for road rage and continue to drive aggressively all the time as a habit.

How can it be gotten rid of?

To eliminate aggressive driving and road rage we need a lifelong driver education program that starts driver education in grade 1 and continue until the end of high school. In the early grades we need to teach driving psychology so people can understand their emotions in public places where we share the road, street, playground, or shopping plaza. We also need to continue driver ed throughout our driving years. This may be done through driving support groups called Quality Driving Circles. We describe this special program in our book along with exercises we need to do to change our driving personality from aggressive to supportive:


Leon James, Ph.D. and Diane Nahl, Ph.D.
Road Rage and Aggressive Driving: Steering Clear of Highway Warfare
(Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2000)

We also recommend people take an aggressive driving prevention course. The video course called RoadRageous that we authored, can be purchased or taken online as a way of teaching yourself to understand our driving emotions and how to modify our driving personality. A description of the video and the book, along with much other free information will be found at our Web site: www.DrDriving.org/courses

What's the worst scenario you've seen or heard of when it comes to road
rage?

You will find a collection of news articles on our site. A well known story on road rage that aroused general interest across the nation is that of the man who threw the dog into the street, see here:
http://www.drdriving.org/rrnews.html#dog

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