Please note: Dr. James is no longer receiving requests for phone interviews. However he is still responding to email interviews: leon@hawaii.edu


Interview Questions with Answers


List of Past Interviews 


ARTICLES by Dr. Leon James


1.     Congressional Testimony on the Psychology of Road Rage and Aggressive Driving

2.    Our Road Rage and Aggressive Driving Book -- Excerpts and Index 

3.    Dealing with stress and pressure in the vehicle. Taxonomy of Driving Behavior:  Affective, Cognitive, Sensorimotor

4.    A New Paradigm for a Global Lifelong Driver Education Curriculum

5.    Two concept Papers: Instituting a Program of Lifelong Traffic Safety Training 
and Promoting the Spread of Quality Driving Circles (QDC) for Post-Licensing Driver Self-improvement Programs

6.     Lifelong Driver's Education: A New Socio-Behavioral Proposal

7.     Driving Psychology Principles

8.     Aggressive Driving is Emotionally Impaired Driving

9.     Aggressive Driving is Emotionally Impaired Driving Conference Paper Summary Principles, Handouts, Analyses, and Charts

10 Driver Personality Survey Results: Driving With Emotional Intelligence

11.  Gender and Driving--Men vs. Women

12.  Driving Personality Makeovers

13.   Musings of a Traffic Psychologist in Traffic--Social Psychology of Driving

14.   Partnership Driving

15.   Philosophy of Driving

16.   Principles of Driving Psychology

17.   Psychology and Driving

18.   Violence and Driving--A Mental Health Issue

19.   QDC--Quality Driving Circles or Support Groups

20.   Three-Step Program for Changing Your Driving Habits

21.   Data On the Private World of the Driver (thoughts and feelings)

22.   What Drivers Complain About Arranged by Feelings, Thoughts, and Acts

23.   Common Aggressive Driving Habits and What To Do About Them

24. Traffic Emotions Education Cards

25.   DrDriving's Rating of the Strength of Aggressive Driving Language in Legislation

26.   Common Driving Habits and What To Do About Them

27.  Cars, Drivers, Passengers and Relationships, Marriage, Romance

28.   Drivers Against Pedestrians: How to Change Attitudes -- Checklist for Your Tendency to Pressure Pedestrians -- Your Emotional Intelligence Towards Pedestrians

29.   Pedestrian Psychology and Safety

30.   Pedestrian Rage

31.   Bicycling Safety Information -- The War Against Drivers

32.   The Psychology of Air Rage Prevention With Compassionate Crowd Management Techniques

37.   Collection of Road Rage and Driving Tips on the Web (1996-2007)

39.   Acts of Kindness while Driving

40.   DBB Ratings--Drivers Behaving Badly Movie Ratings

41.   Distracted Driving: Cell phones, Multitasking

45.   Workshop Charts on Getting a Grip on Anger while Driving

46.   Music and Driving

48.   Chart of Your Driving Personality

50.   Road Rage Overview

51.   Driver Personality Test

57.   Collection of Road Rage News Stories Around the World (1996-2007)

58.   Interview Answers on Road Rage and Other Rages for Various News Sources

59.   The Psychology of Parking Rage: Threestep Program For Prevention

60.   Driver Personality Test and Results

67.   Emotional Reactions to the September 11 Attack

69.   Birds Stories The Social Psychology of a Backyard Aviary

70.   Songs About Driving Cars on Roads and Highways

71.  The Effect of Age, Gender, and Type of Car Driven Compared by the States

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."

"This 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.

By the time they get their driver's license, adolescents have assimilated years of road rage. The road rage habit can be unlearned, but it takes more than conventional driver's ed."

When did the term Road Rage enter our vocabulary?

"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)."


- Nine in 10 people suffer from road rage -

- 34.5m people in Britain become enraged by drivers who change lanes recklessly

- One in 25 18-24 year olds take selfies at the wheel -

The Effect of Age, Gender, and Type of Car Driven Across the States



The pattern of results thus far lead me to the following conclusions:

Aggressive driving is made up of a syndrome of habits that stick together
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.



Driving literacy facts that every driver needs to know!

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.



Useful statistics

on car crashes and injuries may also be found on these Web sites: 
www.car-accidents.com/pages/stats.html www.transport-links.org/transport_links/filearea/publications/1_771_Pa3568.pdf

Brief Summary of How Driving Psychology Explains


What is Aggressive Driving


Aggressive Driving is a philosophy (P), an attitude (A), and a weakness (W). 
You can remember this as  AD = PAW.

 Aggressive driving as a philosophy

Road regulations and civility do not apply to me some of the time.

 Aggressive driving as an attitude

Driving is a competition for who gets through first. I am more entitled than others -- me first. I can't be a wimp and let other motorists take advantage of me.

Aggressive driving as a weakness  

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.

The Psychology of Vanity Plates



Also called Ұersonalized platesӠor Ұersonal platesӮ  I see it as peopleճ 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.


Several issues are involved in this cultural practice:


1. Content

2. Appropriateness

3. Cultural Meaning

4. Psychological Meaning



1. Content

a. it is a reference to a personal relationship (person, group, or place) that may be unintelligible to outsiders (solidarity, friendship, or opposite—insult, hate)

b. it uses a generally recognizable word or name to express support for it (social cause, political principle, place or location, company ad, etc.)

c. it commemorates along with some others a conference or event that ties them together

d. it presents a hidden message that others can decipher and appreciate (self-disclosure, wise advice, etc.)


2. Appropriateness

States filter license plate applications, rejecting or banning sexually explicit or religious and racial slurs. 


3. Cultural Meaning

a. it is an act of self-expression through content and style of the vanity plate

b. it is equivalent to a ҳpeech actӠor act of declaring something publicly about oneself

c. (i) it is expressing and sharing humor (҉tճ funɓ or Ҍetճ laugh togetherӬ etc.), or expressing user generated semiotic ambiguity while driving (ғee what I have for you todayɓ, ҉ can be charming and originalɓ, etc.)

   (ii) it is promoting a particular variety of socio-political activism (҉ support thisɓ or ҉ am against thisɓ etc.)



4. Psychological Meaning

a. willingness to pay more for the plates (indicating engagement and strong motivation)

b. mark of distinction through its uniqueness and inventiveness, either positive (҉ am cleverɓ, ҉ can amaze youɓ, etc.) or negative (mean attacks, intention to hurt)



Background Reading


Vanity Plates: Contest Entries and Awards


Vanity plate

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



Traffic Waves by Beatty Explained

Road Rules

How to respond to an aggressive driver:

 Do not make eye contact.

 Do not "argue with your car."

Yield to the other driver in a dispute over who has the right-of-way.

Let tailgaters pass you.

Watch for tailgaters to pull in front of you too quickly.

Always think: "What can I do to make this situation safer?"

How to stop driving aggressively:

Try to change one thing every day.

 Do not race another driver.

Give yourself enough time to get to a destination.

 Don't tailgate.

Go with the flow and speed of traffic.

 Don't get in the car to drive when angry.

Sources: J.J. Miller, AAA safety adviser; Leon James, University of Hawaii professor who specializes in traffic psychology

Monitor Your Mental Driving Economy

What Causes Driving Stress and the Emotional Use of the Gas Pedal?

Emotional Territoriality in Driving – What Is It?


Driving involves traffic emotionstraffic thoughts, and traffic actions.

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.


Emotional territoriality  refers to all the things that the driver cares about and reacts to emotionally.

Noticing-Appraising-Executing. This is the driverճ loop

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 oneճ emotional territoriality, to stop extending their emotions to traffic events that do not impact them directly. It involves shrinking oneճ 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 canմ 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, youղe looking for a parking space and notice one right next to a larger car that is not perfectly aligned. Youղe 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 managerճ perspective whois responsible for a fleet of drivers, you would not rank high with such traffic emotions, thoughts, and actions.



From our book on Road Rage and Aggressive Driving


What principles are safest for children as passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists


1.      To become more aware of habits of thinking while walking or riding.

2.      To develop objective judgment about strangers' behavior.

3.      To develop emotional intelligence as drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

4.      To critically analyze driving incidents (scenario analysis) by focusing on identifying choice-points (how to prevent or break the chain of errors that leads to catastrophe).

5.      To acknowledge the human rights of all drivers.

6.      To acknowledge passengers' rights (their convenience, comfort, and safety).

7.      To acknowledge pedestrian rights (why they must have the right of way).

8.      To acknowledge the rights of bicycle riders and how to behave near them.

9.      To acknowledge the rights of truck drivers, the need for truck deliveries, and how to behave near them.

10.  To practice group discussions on the importance of civility in public behavior (respecting mutual rights, inalienable rights, fairness, character, community, etc.)

11.  To be able to defend the ideal of social responsibility in public places

12.  To recognize the benefits and rewards of being supportive and positive.

13.  To practice self-witnessing activities as passengers

14.  To practice self-witnessing activities as pedestrians and other road uses

The following is excerpted from: 
Road Rage and Aggressive Driving : Steering Clear of Highway Warfare
  by Leon James & Diane Nahl (Prometheus, 2000).



Description: ttp://www.drdriving.org/images/roadrage_bookcover.gif  

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.





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

2.      swearing

3.      acting in a hostile manner

4.      speeding

5.      yelling at other drivers

6.      honking at other drivers

7.      making insulting gestures

8.      tailgating

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.


See also:   What Drivers Complain About Arranged by Feelings, Thoughts, and Acts



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.


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