rdriving_logo_notext.gif (6847 bytes)
About | Contacts |
Site Map


Main Menu

Driving Courses
Surveys & Tests
Articles on Road Rage
Children & Youth
Elderly Drivers
Law Enforcement
& Legislation

Pedestrians & Bicycling
Professional Drivers
Rage Rage (other rages)
Facts & Advice
Stories in the News



Click to Order from Amazon.com

"...the definitive
book on the aggressive driving epidemic..."

Available in all bookstores


Available in all bookstores

Home>About > The Legend of DrDriving Explained

See Some Interview Questions and Answers  |See DrDriving's Collection of Road Rage News Stories Around the World

Contacts | List of Past Media Interviews | Photos | News Stories and Book Reviews | Road Rage Book Excerpts | About Leon James

Complete list of academic publications available here:

Email: DrDriving@DrDriving.org

About Dr. Diane Nahl -- Academic Resume

Chain of Choices” looks at the choices that each driver makes every day. Proper following distance, common courtesy road rage, driver distractions are covered along insight from Dr William Glasser and Dr. Leon James on why people choose the driving behaviors they do. View a short-clip from “Chain of Choices

The Legend of DrDriving Explained--
The Battle Between Road Warrior and DrDriving

by Leon James

Myths are individual characters or social causes that every mind contains from birth and socialization or upbringing. Examples include "God," "angel," "the voice of my conscience," "father of my country," "humankind," "playing the fool," "forest preservation," and "universal literacy."  When these mythical characters and causes in our mind take on a historical identity or geography, they are known to us as legendary heroes like "Jiminy Cricket," George Washington," "the Three Stooges," "Smokey the Bear," or "Dr. Seuss."  The myth of "DrDriving" was discovered by Leon James after years of witnessing his thoughts and feelings behind the wheel while driving as partners with his wife Diane.

One beautiful Sunday afternoon in 1982 on the island of Oahu, after dropping off Diane's Grandma on our weekly visits with her, Diane tells Leon that Grandma tells her that "Leon is not a very good driver." Piqued, Leon demanded to know what was wrong with his driving. One thing turns out to be the way he makes his turns: Grandma at 92 who sits in the back, gets thrown against the door.  She complains to Diane that this is bad driving.  Leon dismisses the complaint as "ridiculous."  "Let her hold on to the door handle" was his answer.   Then Diane confesses she had been meaning to tell Leon things about his driving -- the things he did  that scared her and made her fear for her safety, like switching lanes without looking over the shoulder and turning on the signal before starting to move into the other lane instead of simultaneously.  

But she held back, she confessed, fearing Leon's negative reactions that she had encountered on those few occasions that she did start talking to him about what she was scared of when being a passenger while Leon was driving: namely, his denial, anger, accusations, hostility, bad mood, silence, retaliation, defiance, resistance. 

Finally, after much persistent and courageous pleading by Diane,  Leon agreed to have Diane tell him when she felt unsafe.  That's when the idea of partnership driving was born.

As I tried to cope with the enormous resistance I was feeling to changing my driving personality, I discovered the existence of DrDriving  in my mind.  It saved my marriage, my life, and my spirit. 
Leon James

What Leon experienced when he agreed to let Diane tell him about his driving, was his own (sub-conscious) resistance to being a really competent, supportive and peaceful driver.  He was an individualist driver

·   expressing his assertiveness impulsively

·   feeling competitive and opportunistic

·   being proud of being tough and aggressive

·   retaliating and upsetting other drivers "who deserved it"

·   lording it over passengers

·   and approaching pedestrians too close when they were walking very slowly

All this was hidden from his conscious awareness!  He had an excellent reputation of himself as a driver.  He often claimed that he was an excellent driver with an excellent record.  So when Diane started to courageously point out Leon's mistakes, one by one, he resisted.  He denied the errors.  He argued against her objective perception and observation.  Leon could not admit to his own driving mistakes because he made himself blind to them.  In his own mind, Leon was  "an excellent driver" with few tickets and only three minor crashes in over 30 years of daily driving.

But Diane persisted, and Leon began to take her seriously by acknowledging her observations and beginning to witness for himself what kind of driver he really was.  He became a witness to his own aggressiveness, hostile feelings, competitive style, irrational thinking, excessive risk-taking, rushing all the time, and a number of habitual errors he was making as a driver. He made attempts to change, but in vain.  He kept sliding back at the first opportunity, sometimes getting worse instead of better.  Leon and Diane were in a desperate situation.  Their entire relationship was at stake, suffering from Leon's rebellion and selfishness. 

At last Leon decided to tackle this problem like a psychology coach -- he was after all a psychology professor!  He was going to systematically modify his driving personality,  piece by piece,  building up from scratch a new driving persona --more competent, more civilized, less defensive, happier, nicer, calmer.

Thus it was that DrDriving slowly emerged more and more definitely in my mind.  I discovered that I had a friendly driving coach within me,  whom I started calling "DrDriving."  Maybe it was my driving conscience, the still small voice that in every driver whispers advice

·   to take less chances

·   to give others their due rights

·   to respect rules

·   to think correctly about traffic situations

·   and to care about how our actions impact on others.

Leon's DrDriving taught him how to change and how to keep improving on a lifelong basis.  He discovered that as soon as he dropped his guard, ignoring the voice of DrDriving, he fell back into his old evil and dangerous ways:

·   driving too fast

·   taking chances

·   looking for opportunities to gain two seconds or three yards

·   using too much gas

·   wearing out the brakes

·   upsetting other drivers

·   upsetting passengers

·   upsetting pedestrians.

Without Dr. Driving in the forefront, Leon's mind was playing out other driving legends, characters with dangerous and mean lives: Road Warrior, Mr. Hyde, Road Runner, Road Jackass, Vigilante Cop, Mad Max, and many more!  But with DrDriving kept in the forefront of his mind, Leon was able to put these bad driving characters to the side, as mere powerless legendary heroes of a bygone era in his biography! 

As long as DrDriving is allowed to keep guard, these harmful characters are not allowed to return to action.  They have been dispossessed of their legendary powers in the mind, hence on the individual's driving style. Everyone's DrDriving turns out to have an arsenal of inner power tools that are effective in defeating these legendary characters in our mind and culture.

Leon and Diane began to tell other drivers about Everyone's DrDriving.  As traffic psychology educators, they encouraged students and friends to put a tape recorder in the car and to start recording their thoughts by speaking them out loud.  What an amazing discovery then happened.  When these drivers began to witness themselves and tried to modify their driving habits, they came up against the inner resistance to change.

Each driver then discovered DrDriving within themselves.

It was the voice of their driving conscience, now empowered by the self-modification attempts.  For example, as the drivers were trying to stop following too close,  or to signal every lane change, or to be nice to their passenger, their DrDriving gave them the motive and the rationale for doing it and to keep doing it.

ABOUT DIANE NAHL -- Academic Resume


He has headed the Driving Psychology Program at the University of Hawaii (Manoa) since 1982. In recognition of his expertise, he was appointed by the Mayor to the Oahu Traffic Safety Council and is serving on the Governor’s Impaired Driving Task Force that is responsible for new legislative programs and law enforcement initiatives with regard to aggressive driving. In July 1997, Dr. James gave expert testimony on aggressive driving to the House of Representatives in Congress, along with other experts such as Dr. Ricardo Martinez, head of NHTSA, and Dr. Arnold Nerenberg, a road rage psychotherapist in California.

Besides training students at the University of Hawaii, Dr. James has an active presence on the World Wide Web where he is known as DrDriving (the Web address is:  DrDriving.org). Hundreds of thousands of people use his Web-based instructional materials and tests, and write Dear DrDriving letters which Dr. James personally answers. For the past five years, as Road Rage has become a general issue of concern, Dr. James has given over 1000 interviews to reporters and guest appearances on radio shows across the country. A list of these interviews, and some of the content, is available at www.DrDriving.org/about/interviews4.htm

Dr. James has published several academic books and dozens of experimental reports in the professional research literature. He was awarded federal government research grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Mental Health, and serves on the Editorial Board of several professional journals in psychology. He is a member of the National Advisory Panel for the American Institute for Public Safety (AIPS) and along with his partner and colleague, Dr. Diane Nahl, he has authored a video course for AIPS called RoadRageous, which is in response to the need for more instruction in driving psychology, not just in safety education. Dr. James is the founder of the new field of Driving Psychology, which emphasizes lifelong driving self-improvement programs. His proposals include such novel ideas as Quality Driving Circles (QDCs) and Driving Personality Makeover Techniques.

For the past twenty years Leon James has taught driving personality makeovers to his traffic psychology students at the University of Hawaii. His special focus on driving began when his wife's grandmother complained about how he cornered too fast. Other problem behaviors surfaced in subsequent discussions, like signaling too late or changing lanes unnecessarily to get ahead. As a social psychology professor he began applying scientific techniques to modify his driving style. He recorded his thoughts while driving with a voice-activated tape recorder during hundreds of trips, and later listened to the tapes and analyzed them. He analyzed tapes of hundreds of other drivers, and gradually realized that all drivers experience emotional challenges in today's chronically congested driving environment.

Together with Dr. Diane Nahl, his wife and constant driving partner, Dr. James created the new field of Driving Psychology. Its main focus is to teach self-modification techniques for driver self-improvement. In1997 James presented a Lifelong Driver Self-Improvement program in congressional hearings. He proposed a K-12 driver education curriculum described in the book. James and Nahl argue that children acquire their initial driving lessons as passengers in their parents' cars. They give evidence that one's degree of aggressiveness as a driver is related to what we recall about our parents' driving style. They caution that we are breeding the next generation of aggressive drivers, and they developed aggressive driving prevention activities for parents to do with their children.

Dr. James and Dr. Nahl have given over one thousand interviews and media appearances in the past eight years. A list will be found here: www.drdriving.org/about/interviews4.htm

Besides teaching driving psychology, Dr. James has served on traffic safety organizations and has consulted with national, state, and private organizations in transportation and safety. He is co-author of the RoadRageous Aggressive Driver video course and has created aggressive driving prevention workshops for law enforcement and commercial drivers. He is known on the Web as DrDriving and has answered thousands of Dear Dr. Driving letters. His DrDriving.org site receives thousands daily visitors looking for advice or research on road rage and aggressive driving.

Dr. Leon James is Professor of Psychology and has been part of the Social-Personality Program since 1971.  His special areas of interest include driving psychology, cyber-psychology, information literacy, applied psycholinguistics, and theistic psychology.  His recent work includes

  • (a) developing taxonomic inventories of driver behaviors in the affective, cognitive, and sensorimotor domains, and suitable for driver assessment and driver education
  • (b) gathering longitudinal data on the process of becoming Internet literate in a course setting;
  • (c) investigating the spiritual psychology of Emanuel Swedenborg (1668-1771) and relating it to contemporary behavioral psychology in the form of a new field called theistic psychology

Dr. James serves on the editorial board of several academic research journals.  He also maintains two World Wide Web sites where readers write to consult him as "DrDriving" and where he publishes study materials and research reports for scholars, students, safety officials, driving school instructors, and government agencies relating to transportation.


Complete list of academic publications available here:


RoadRageous is the first nationally distributed aggressive driving course used in driving instruction, by courts, law enforcement, and military bases. The course is available online as well:  see this address:


Road Rage and Aggressive Driving (Prometheus Books, NY, 2000) is the first comprehensive book on a subject that has been in the media headlines since 1996. It covers the societal context of legislation, enforcement, education, psychology, and citizen activism, in addition to the personal stories of the victims and the perpetrators of highway warfare. James and Nahl give a detailed description of the driver's private world behind the wheel. Their unique self-witnessing technique has motorists record themselves by thinking aloud while negotiating in traffic, capturing the life drama of the driver's thoughts and emotions. The authors uncover the cultural roots of hostility behind the wheel that sets drivers against each other, tracing it to childhood when we are driven by impatient and aggressive adults.

The increasing stress of driving influences health, crash statistics, rising costs of injuries and traffic deaths, and other forms of human suffering. Getting angry and driving aggressively is a learned habit that can be unlearned with the effective methods described in the book. Each chapter contains checklists and tests that readers can use to assess their own road rage tendency. Emotional intelligence as a driver is a critical concept that involves first, becoming aware of automatic negative reactions and thoughts, and second, substituting positive alternatives. Examples of negative thinking in routine driving situations are provided, and how to transform these reactions to retain control in emotionally charged situations.

The varieties of aggressive driving behaviors are outlined--the rushing maniac, the Jekyll-Hyde persona, the automotive vigilante, the left lane bandit and others. James and Nahl have discovered that at times every driver has these types of reactions. You'll find descriptions of the authors' three-step program, their RoadRageous video course, the results of their aggressive driving polls, and scenario analysis exercises to practice critical thinking to help you develop emotionally intelligent driving skills.

This book is for everyone because whether you drive, ride, walk or bike we are all touched by the driving crisis. This book shows that driving is not an individual activity, it is a community activity where every person can contribute to a safer driving environment. After reading the book you will want to buy one for your spouse, teen driver, an elderly driver, friend, or employee. Commercial drivers and law enforcement will find this book equally informative and relevant.

Excerpts of the book available here:



How we drive is how we love. It's how we connect with people and our  public announcement of what is truly in our heart. "What's your  driving temperament?" is one of the first questions I ask my patients.  and their answers reflect not only how they negotiate traffic but how  they are traveling through their life. Whether you are a raging or  tranquil driver directly reflects and effects your emotional, physical,  and spiritual well-being.

We attract the kind of drivers we ourselves are and we can ultimately  drive ourselves to mean-spiritedness and ill health. Like the weather,  everyone is talking about road rage, but Drs. James and Nahl have  finally done something about it. They show that what we call "traffic"  is really an ever-changing set of social relationship tests, and how we  engage in these auto-connections speaks volumes about the ultimate  quality of our own and others lives. They show that being a "Type R"  behind the wheel is not only a culturally acquired habit but one of the  most serious risks to our personal and social health.

With strong documentation and easy-to-follow steps, they show us  how to adopt a more gently paced way to stop racing against time and  people to get someplace and truly enjoy getting there. They show us  how being a better driver helps us lead a better, happier, healthier life.

Paul Ka`ikena Pearsall, Ph.D.

Everything you always wanted to know about road rage and aggressive driving.  Leon James and Diane Nahl bring the scholarship desperately needed.

John A. Larson, M.D., F.A.P.A.
Author of Road Rage to Road Wise (with Carol Rodriguez )and Steering Clear of Highway Madness

All 177 million American drivers should read this mesmerizing book  about what happens when aggression and rage accelerate behind the  wheel of an automobile and, most importantly, how to avoid it. It is  certain to become an American classic!

Jo Goecke, Columnist and International Keynoter Column distributed by iSyndicate.com

This book can literally save your life. Leon James and Diane Nahl have given us practical choices on how to protect ourselves from the Age of Rage. It is absolutely outstanding and should become the definitive work on road rage.

Allen Liles, Aauthor of the audiocassette The Peaceful Driver -- Steering Clear of Road Rage

Your road rage manuscript ... was totally interesting and informative. You can mark me down as a real supporter. 

J. Peter Rothe, Professor of Traffic Sociology, Author of The Truckers' World and author of The Safety of Elderly Drivers

It's about personal behavior! ------ For those of us that have been  personally involved with "Road Rage"; for those of us who have  witnessed "Road Rage"; for those of us that understand "Road Rage"  truly exists and is a serious issue for the motoring public, this is a page  turner. Leon and Diane have defined the issue, shown what it has cost  us and most  importantly ----Given Specifics for us to prevent from participating in  a "Road Rage" incident or being the victim of "Road Rage".

This is a must read for young drivers, experienced drivers and  professional drivers alike-----Remember that it's about personal  behavior!  Who better to discuss this issue than Social Psychologist,  Dr. Leon James and Dr. Diane Nahl.

Stan McWilliams, Manager Safety Information Systems, M.S. Carriers Inc.

Twenty eight thousand Americans died last year because of aggressive  driving. There are close to two billion episodes of road rage per year  in our nation. The risk of criminal and economic consequences of  road rage is high. Eighty three percent of commercial drivers will be  involved in a road rage incident.  This is the first definitive book on  the subject by two leading experts who have pioneered a new  approach to driver improvement. This book will save lives. Give it to  a loved one after reading it yourself.

Dr. Arnold Nerenberg, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist and Road Rage Therapist

I have had the opportunity to work with Dr. James through our aggressive  driving program here in San Antonio. There is no doubt he is the foremost  expert on the subject. Although I have not been able to read the complete  book at this time I have skimmed through it and it appears to reflect many of  the ideas we have discussed over the previous few months. Through his  guidance we have established what I feel is a very comprehensive aggressive  driver program here.

Any aggressive driving program must be a comprehensive team effort of  education, enforcement and a strong judicial effort. The police alone can not  be the only element in an anti-aggressive driver program. The officers in the  program must be trained in not only what behaviors identify a person as an  aggressive driver but also why that person behaves in that manner. The public  must be made aware of and constantly reminded of what constitutes  aggressive driving and how to deal with out ever increasing traffic congestion  and lack of driving manners by other drivers. Enforcement must re-enforce  those sanctions against bad driving while being supported by a judicial  system that can not only impose monetary punishment when necessary but  also act as an extension of the re-education effort.

In a time period when we are all bombarded with a constant messages of "do it  now" and "just do it" and other messages of instant gratification, patience  and tolerance seem to have disappeared from many individuals life styles.  Voluntary compliance to traffic laws and conditions must be the goal of any  aggressive driver campaign and regular and constant awareness and  education must play a large part in this effort. Dr. James efforts go a long way  in accomplishing this goal.

Tom Polonis, Captain, San Antonio Police Department, Commander, Technical Support Section

Dr. Leon James is the world's leading authority on the treatment of road rage.  This book is a distillation of his social wisdom on this vital subject. I would  like to see a copy in the glove compartment of every vehicle.

Dr. Richard S. Kirby, Executive Director of the Stuart C. Dodd Institute for Social Innovation, University of Washington, Seattle, Author of The Mission of Mysticism and author of Christians and the World of Computers

Complete list of academic publications available here:

List of Media Interviews  || Photographs   

More excerpts from the road rage book | Dr. Leon James Congressional Testimony | Articles on Road Rage and Aggressive Driving | Research Literature | Facts | Surveys and Tests