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,"
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
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.
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
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,
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,
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
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:
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
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.
NAHL -- Academic Resume
ABOUT LEON JAMES
-- Academic Resume
citizen; Ph.D., Psychology, McGill University,1962
McGill University (1962-63)
Assistant Professor, Laval University (1963-64)
Lecturer, University of Wisconsin (1964)
Professor, University of Illinois (Champaign) (1964-68)
Professor, University of Illinois (Champaign) (1968-71)
University of Hawaii (Manoa) (1971-current)
Dr. James is a
citizen residing in Hawaii. Since 1971 he has been Professor of
Psychology at the
of Hawaii. Prior to that, he has taught at various universities since
earning his Ph.D. at McGill University in Montreal, including Laval
University (Quebec), University of Wisconsin (Madison), and University
of Illinois (Champaign). 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
Dr. James, a full fledged member of the American Psychological
Association since 1962, 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
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.
James and Dr. Nahl have given over one thousand interviews and media
appearances in the past eight years. A list will be found here:
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
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
Dr. Driving letters. His DrDriving.org site receives
thousands daily visitors
looking for advice or research on road rage and aggressive driving.
Dr. James was born in Europe in 1938 and migrated through several
countries in his early years. By the time he learned English at 16, it
was his eleventh language. In 1962 he earned a Ph.D. in
psycholinguistics from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He has
authored several books on the psychology of language and published
dozens of scientific articles in professional journals. Dr. James has
been interviewed by hundreds of reporters in the past three years and
has been a central contributor to the new aggressive driving awareness
in legislation, the media, and the safety professions. He has lived in
Hawaii since 1971.
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
taxonomic inventories of driver behaviors in the affective, cognitive,
and sensorimotor domains, and suitable for driver assessment and driver
(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 does occasional reviews
for Second Language Learning, Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, and
the International Journal of Psycholinguistics. He also maintains two
World Wide Web sites where thousands of 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:
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
(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
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
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.
Author of THE PLEASURE PRESCRIPTION and WISHING WELL
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
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
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
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.
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.,
Psychologist and Road Rage Therapist
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
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
Complete list of academic publications available here:
List of Media Interviews
excerpts from the road rage book
Christian Driving Psychology
Articles on Road Rage and
Aggressive Driving |
Surveys and Tests