Please note: Dr. James is no longer receiving requests for phone interviews. However he is still responding to email interviews: firstname.lastname@example.org
ARTICLES by Dr. Leon James
From: Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation Of the Committee on Transportation and infrastructure House of representatives One hundred fifth congress July 17, 1997 Washington, D.C.
"Enforcement is important, Mr. Chairman, but we really need to study the causes behind road rage, and I'm looking forward to hearing from our witnesses this morning on ways in which we can identify and respond to the triggers which lead to aggressive driving. Perhaps we can incorporate some of these ideas when we move to reauthorize ISTEA."
"This committee has been fighting and will continue to fight to provide adequate funding so we can relieve congestion, and that certainly will have a very significant impact on reducing the aggressive driving that we're experiencing in this country."
committee does not have the capacity to change the emotions and the aggressive feelings
of people out on the highway, but we do have a responsibility and the
jurisdiction to try to change the environment which causes that aggression, and
that environment is caused largely by congestion."
Members of the Committee
"In 15 years, I've identified many detailed psychological components of aggressive driving and have developed an empirically-based theory of what causes aggressive driving and what behavioral techniques can be used to measure and control it.
My research has confirmed to some degree nearly every driver has feelings of rage and thoughts of retaliation. For the past year, the media has increased coverage of road rage incidents, and people are asking questions for which scientific data are not yet available. Is aggressive driving increasing? Are there differences or is it a universal epidemic? What causes the increase in aggressive driving and how can it be controlled?
I think what's on the increase is the amount of habitual road rage we see today. I define habitual road rage as a persistent state of hostility behind the wheel, demonstrated by acts of aggression and a continuum of violence, and justified by righteous indignation. Driving and habitual road rage have become
virtually inseparable. Road rage is a habit acquired in childhood. Children are reared in a car culture that condones irate
expression as part of the normal wear and tear of driving. Once they enter a car, children notice that all the sudden the rules have changed. It's okay to be mad, very upset, out of control, and use bad language that's ordinarily not allowed.
"The expression "road rage" was first used in newspapers in England around 1990. Later the French newspapers began using the expression "rage au volant" (literally: rage behind the wheel). At the same time Turkish newspapers used the expression "your demon behind the wheel." Back in the days of ancient Rome there was a law passed against "furious driving" which tried to address the recklessness of drunk drivers of horse drawn carriages. It is a world wide phenomenon.
Our book Road Rage and Aggressive Driving came out in 2000. It was the first use of the expression in a book title. Today the expression "road rage" is used daily in dozens of newspapers around the world (see Google News search)."
The pattern of results thus far lead me to the following conclusions:
is made up of a syndrome of habits that stick
with plenty of individual variation.
Young drivers are more aggressive in all driving behaviors than older
drivers; senior drivers are the least aggressive.
Men are more aggressive than women when they drive sports cars and light
trucks (S-10, Pick-up, Ram, Ranger, F-150, Silverado, Dakota, etc.); women
are more aggressive than men when they drive SUVs and luxury cars. For
economy and family cars, it depends on the specific behavior.
There appear to be three psychological categories of vehicles people
drive: tough driving cars (sports, light trucks, SUVs), soft driving cars
(economy, family), and special driving cars (vans, luxury). Each of these
psychological categories has its own aggressive driving syndrome that
distinguishes it from the others.
It is evident that aggressive driving is a cultural norm that is generationally transmitted as a habit imbibed in childhood when riding with parents and reinforced by repeated media portrayals of drivers
behaving badly. To get us out of this, I propose a program of Lifelong Driver Education.
World wide, about 1.5 million people are killed in road accidents every year -- that's 15 million killed on the roads every decade. Road accident research has pointed towards driver error in the majority of cases. In the U.S. about 42,000 traffic fatalities occur every year and about 1.5 million injuries annually at a total cost of 200 billion dollars -- that means in every decade we kill 420,000 Americans on the roads, injure 15 million Americans on the road, and pay a whopping two trillion dollar cost in repairs, injuries, insurance, and economic loss. Our foreign oil dependence and domestic shortage would be solved if we stopped using the gas pedal emotionally in traffic every day.
Almost all of "driver error" can be traced to insufficient emotional intelligence training behind the wheel. All drivers can train themselves to acquire emotional intelligence behind the wheel. We have proposed that driver education start early in elementary school when we can train young people to acquire respect and compassion for others in public places -- pedestrians, drivers, passengers, road workers, law enforcement. We describe a threestep method for driver personality makeovers. Every individual is raised to be an aggressive driver and pedestrian through years of training on the back seat of the car driven by parents and other adults -- road rage nursery! Add up the years of daily television watching and video gaming involving drivers behaving aggressively, dangerously, and violently. By the time we start driving we automatically drive aggressively, have competitive feelings and intentions behind the wheel.
The threestep self-modification approach can provide adult drivers with a new supportive driver personality style, to replace the aggressive driving feelings, emotions, intentions, judgments, condemnations, and acts of risk and folly that all of us experience and tolerate on a daily basis. Driving is the most dangerous thing we do on a regular basis, and it has the highest cost as well. We can change that.
on car crashes and injuries may also be found on
these Web sites:
Brief Summary of How Driving Psychology Explains
Driving is a philosophy (P),
an attitude (A), and a weakness (W).
You can remember this as AD = PAW.
Aggressive driving is an emotional weakness or a lowered ability to cope with routine everyday exchanges with other motorists. It is a lack or insufficiency of emotional intelligence. It involves mental venting to oneself behind the wheel, and social venting to one's co-workers, friends, or any stranger who will listen.
The PAW syndrome of aggressive driving is part of the culture of disrespect on highways. It is a world wide phenomenon present in epidemic proportions in every country studied so far. It is a generationally transmitted socialization habit and therefore is going to increase and get worse with every subsequent generation -- unless we stop it through lifelong driver education programs and quality driving circles for driver self-improvement activities tied to license renewal.
Also called “personalized plates” or “personal plates”. I see it as people’s attempt to fight the anonymity of the daily driving experience on roads and highways, and thus to try to re-humanize the driving environment that has evolved into something stressful and unhealthy, competitive and risky, frustrating, and anonymous. Personalized plates extend the current exploding mobile social networking movement and can be expected to increase and become more important in the immediate future of motorists, passengers, and pedestrians.
c. (i) it is expressing and sharing humor (“It’s fun…” or “Let’s laugh together”, etc.), or expressing user generated semiotic ambiguity while driving (“See what I have for you today…”, “I can be charming and original…”, etc.)
These are three independent systems of the driver that need to be trained to work together efficiently. All drivers improve with experience. But this is usually true only about one sector of their traffic actions -- handling the vehicle. The majority of drivers do not improve in their traffic emotions and traffic thoughts.
Drivers feel overwhelmed by traffic emotions. This causes driving stress and the emotional use of the gas pedal. Both involve costs in higher risk and unhappiness. Drivers can learn to better manage their traffic emotions by monitoring their mental driving economy. This will give them an indication of their emotional territoriality. What are the things they notice about other cars and motorists? How do they react emotionally? What are their traffic thoughts in connection with these emotions?
Knowing their traffic thoughts and traffic emotions, will allow drivers to intervene in the process. The goal is to shrink one’s emotional territoriality, to stop extending their emotions to traffic events that do not impact them directly. It involves shrinking one’s emotional territoriality by practicing an attitude of latitude. We can notice another driver speeding past us without reacting emotionally. We can experience the sudden fright when someone cuts us off and we have to break quickly. We can’t help the emotional reaction, but we can do something to cut it short. We have the choice of choosing traffic thoughts that exasperate and intensify our disapproval of the other driver, or, we can choose traffic calming thoughts. We are in charge of our thoughts much more than of our emotions, and by controlling our traffic thoughts, we control our traffic emotions.
To achieve effective driver self-management, we need to know what we care about emotionally as we notice things around us. We need to monitor the traffic thoughts that go along with the traffic emotions. For instance, you’re looking for a parking space and notice one right next to a larger car that is not perfectly aligned. You’re annoyed. You feel outraged that you have to either squeeze in, or look for a better stall. If the driver would show up at this point you might glare at the person, or even verbally express hostility. When you think about this scenario from a manager’s perspective whois responsible for a fleet of drivers, you would not rank high with such traffic emotions, thoughts, and actions.
The following twenty steps are arranged along a continuum of escalating degrees of hostility, beginning with relatively milder forms of aggressiveness (step 1) and going all the way to extreme violence (step 20). How far down the uncivilized path do you allow yourself to go? The majority of drivers we tested go as far as step 13.
1. Mentally condemning another driver
2. Verbally denigrating another driver to passengers in your vehicle
3. Closing ranks to deny someone entry into your lane because you're frustrated or upset
4. Giving another driver the "stink eye" to show your disapproval
5. Speeding past another car or revving the engine as a sign of protest
6. Preventing another driver from passing because you're mad
7. Tailgating to pressure a driver to go faster or get out of the way
8. Fantasizing physical violence against another driver
9. Honking or yelling at someone through the window to indicate displeasure
10. Making a visible obscene gesture at another driver
11. Using your car to retaliate by making sudden, threatening maneuvers
12. Pursuing another car because of a provocation or insult
13. Getting out of the car and engaging in a verbal dispute on a street or parking lot
14. Carrying a weapon in the car in case you decide to use it in a driving incident
15. Deliberately bumping or ramming another car in anger
16. Trying to run another car off the road to punish the driver
17. Getting out of the car and beating or battering someone as a result of a road exchange
18. Trying to run someone down whose actions angered you
19. Shooting at another car
20. Killing someone
How far down did you go on the continuum? The checklist is divided into five equal zones of intensity of aggressiveness.
Unfriendly Zone: Items 1 to 3 -- mental and verbal acts of unkindness toward other drivers
Hostile Zone: Items 4 to 7 -- visibly communicating displeasure or resentment with the desire to punish or retaliate
Violent Zone: Items 8 to 11 -- carrying out an act of hostility either in fantasy or in deed
Lesser Mayhem Zone: Items 12 to 16 -- epic road rage contained within personal limits
Major Mayhem Zone: Items 17 to 20 -- unrestrained epic road rage; the stuff of violent media headlines.
THE AGGRESSIVE DRIVING SYNDROME
Our research shows that the aggressiveness syndrome is made of the following 16 driver behaviors. Ask yourself how many of these apply to you on a regular basis:
1. feeling stress
3. acting in a hostile manner
5. yelling at other drivers
6. honking at other drivers
7. making insulting gestures
9. cutting someone off
10. expressing road rage behavior
11. feeling enraged
12. indulging in violent fantasies
13. feeling competitive with other drivers
14. rushing all the time
15. feeling the desire to drive dangerously
16. feeling less calm and level headed behind the wheel
These 16 driving behaviors define the aggressive driver syndrome. They are all significantly intercorrelated. This means that if you do one of them regularly, you will also do many of the other 15 on a regular basis.
What Some Motorists Have Said About Anger and Road Rage in Their Lives
^^^ Anger is a natural emotion, and is rather self-protective at times. Anger can be maladaptive, and during those times we need to check ourselves, or wait to overtly react. It is healthy to have the ability to get angry, but it is unhealthy to let anger rule or overcome your life to the point that the only thing you can see or feel is anger. Our moods need to have some balance, and controlling anger when it is inappropriate is important. Knowing the difference between inappropriate anger and appropriate anger is an important exploration. For instance, if you want your job, you cannot yell at your boss because you are angry at him, but instead sit calmly and explain your feelings if possible. I am rarely enraged, except when someone i love is hurt. I get depressed oftentimes, but not to the point of feeling hopeless. A little depression can lead to self-exploration, which can be good (reevaluating things, etc.) Again, if emotions are out of control, no matter what emotion it is, that is not healthy.
^^^ As the light changed from red to green to yellow and back to red again, I asked myself "Is life really just a bunch of honking and screaming?" Everybody is in a rush. Whether getting to work or driving home, most people are rushing! I know I have a bad temper. I grew up watching my father get extremely angry. He wouldn't hit us, the kids, but he would hit other objects and shake things. I grew up thinking this was the way to deal with anger. I know its wrong. I am trying very hard to control my anger on the roads and with the people I love. I tend to get most angry with those I love and who love me. I take the worst out on these people and then regret it later. Our society is like this too. We are all very selfish and want what we want when we want it. I hope this will help your survey. I can honestly say that I am trying to make a POSITIVE change in my attitude and the way I see others and the way in which I handle my anger. Thank you for this opportunity to express myself.
^^^ I believe that our society is becoming more self-centered in general. People seem to have a me-first attitude that didn't exist 30 or more years ago. There's a sense of entitlement that seems to justify bad (and/or narcissistic) behaviors. Anger, rudeness and lack of consideration for others are becoming so much the norm that I find myself surprised when strangers are kind or considerate (whether on the road or in a store or whatever). I find it difficult to be mean or rude, even when I feel I've been wronged -- it's just how I was raised and I think most others my age (50+) are the same. But it looks to me that this attitude will die with us and our society will be one mean place to be in future years.
^^^ I notice all the time in my city the people who have problems with "road rage". I my self am a borderline road rager, but I will say that I've gotten a lot better. However, there are people out there also that purposely do things to aggravate or irritate the "road ragers" and make situations worse instead of just moving out of their way. Like slowing way down or slamming on their brakes in the fast lane instead of just moving over. In my opinion they are just as bad if not worse than "Road Ragers". Sometimes they are the ones that cause the situations!!
^^^ I think people need to get more sleep, more exercise, and have more active relaxation (not tv or computer games). I think that thinking through situations, being compassionate and empathetic, helps. Give the person irritating you all the excuses you would give yourself if you made a mistake. Sometimes lying to yourself (e.g. "that person must not have seen me" or "they didn't mean to do that") helps to decrease anger, when necessary.
^^^ I think that socially - we are becoming more insular and have lost the art of patience. I work at maintaining balance - as do many of my peers/friends/family - yet also witness impatience among those groups - more than I recall as a child in the smae groups (or shall I say youngster). My husband - a normally patient person - paid a "per diem" for the horrific commute he has - recounts terrible incidents he has seen on the roadways -and the difficulty of trying to maneuver away from it. I try to travel side and back roads - and am often shocked when I get on our highways to witness the speeding and weaving - beeping and bad behavior on the roads. I must also comment that I NEVER NEVER see State Police out on the roads. I have called in plates of dangerous drivers - and have written letters that have seen no follow up. I wish you had one more question on your survey. It would be this: Do you ever wish you/your family could get around without having to drive on our nation's roads? Yes! Yes I do.
^^^ I think we get angrier as a society because we're eating too much artificial food. I've cut back on the amount of caffeine I drink, and it's helped a lot, but I'm still very impatient.
^^^ I want to find a way to let out all the stress of the day so that by the time I hit the road I don't get so angry at the guy the "cuts me off" on the way home. Trouble is, how do you get the other guy to find an outlet for his anger? I am seriously considering taking up kickboxing to vent.
^^^ Sometimes I feel discouraged like we are completely losing sight of the things that really matter in society, like family, love, religion, children and family virtues and values. I had a brother who passed away at 26 five years ago. It was a very depressing time for me. I used to listen to very angry, aggressive music to revert all of my sadness and discouragement to anger and rage. Now, I find sometimes it is hard to let go of those things.
^^^ I'd like to say that there is a good side to road rage: that is that it tends to deter people from intentionally being rude to other motorists. and on the other hand, there are so many cell phone owners that 'road rage assailants need to be particularly careful that there are no witnesses, before they offend.
^^^ It seems people do not take responsibility for their anger or feelings. my favorite quote is from the movie "The Big Chill": "I could have, I chose not to."
^^^ Anger can help you to act constructively, to push you to the point where you will do what you previously thought yourself incapable of doing. To act off anger is not always to act in violence or negativity. Most people don't realize this, but anger is the greatest motivator.