Two University of Hawaii Professors, Dr. Leon James and Dr. Diane Nahl, are known as
the foremost road rage experts. They have been interviewed by hundreds of reporters and
have been quoted in the major national news media in the past five years. Surprised
reporters ask "How can you have road rage in Hawaii?". While we are known to the
world as a peaceful paradise, Hawaii residents are just as vulnerable to the road rage
epidemic. Last year many incidents were reported on Oahu alone:
** In January, a 36-year-old man was arrested and another man was injured when a driver
got out of his car armed with a golf club and smashed the rear and front windows of a
21-year-old man's car. He used the shaft of the golf club to jab the man in the neck
before driving off. He turned himself into police soon after and was arrested for
first-degree criminal property damage and unlawful entry into a car.
** In another incident in January, a man yelled at a car that was speeding near a
supermarket. The driver turned the car around and beat up the 41-year-old man. Police
booked him for second-degree assault.
** In March, a 28-year-old woman was arrested in a road rage case. She followed a woman
who had cut her off to a 7-Eleven store and punched her in the mouth. The woman was booked
for unlawful entry into a motor vehicle, a felony.
** In April, a motorist was arrested in Waikiki for punching another driver after being
involved in a traffic incident that started with an argument. The attacker, 30, got out of
his car, reached in the other driver's car and punched the man, 48, in the face. He was
booked for unlawful entry into a motor vehicle and second-degree terroristic threatening.
** In July, a man and a woman travelling in a car with four children, ages 4 through
11, started quarreling and their car struck a highway barrier. In the heat of the
argument, the woman grabbed the steering wheel veering toward an off-ramp. Then the driver
turned the wheel back and lost control. The car crossed three lanes before crashing into
the median. The hatchback popped open and the 4-year old flew out, falling 30 feet to the
** In September, a man threatened a 25-year-old man with his car in a bout of road
rage. The victim was cut off by the suspect's car and words were exchanged, which prompted
him to follow the victim. He rammed the victim's car from behind and sped away. The victim
followed the attacker's car who then made a U-turn and attempted to hit the victim's car
head on, forcing the car to run into a parked vehicle.
** In October, an out-of-control van rammed two cars, including one filled with four
children, and barreled into a lei stand, pinning its 74-year-old owner against a
refrigerator. The occupants of the van got into a confrontation when one of the vans
passengers was stabbed by someone in the other car after he yelled at the driver to slow
down. The van sped away and rammed into a parked red sports car with the four children
** And in January of this year, a 36-year-old man was arrested after a 19-year-old man
told police the other driver cut him off abruptly. This caused him to collide with the
car. The other driver then punched in the window of the 19-year old, showering him with
glass that cut his face and arms. The 36-year-old man was arrested for first-degree
criminal property damage.
Leon James and Diane Nahl, authors of the new book "Road Rage and Aggressive
Driving: Steering Clear of Highway Warfare," warn parents to protect their children
from picking up the road rage habit as they ride with their parents and absorb their
hostile attitudes. When kids start driving, years of exposure to aggressive driving
automatically comes out in unconscious habits that put young drivers at great risk.
Driving fatalities are the main cause of death among 16 to 20-year olds. Last year 41,000
people died in traffic collisions and 6 million suffered major injuries in automobile
crashes. Experts estimate that the majority of these crashes could be avoided if drivers
stopped their aggressive ways.
Aggressive driving habits are so ingrained that most people aren't aware. Surveys
reported by the authors show that 80 percent of drivers complain about the aggressive
driving of others but only 30 percent admit to driving aggressively. Their road rage book
describes a Threestep Program people can use to shrink this "awareness gap" and
achieve control over their traffic emotions. The authors define aggressive driving as the
desire to impose one's own level of risk on others and trying to force others to drive
according to their own standards. Road rage is a state of anger leading to aggressive
behavior in words, gestures, assault or battery. They present a variety of road rage types
including Jekyll-Hyde, passive aggressive, constant complainer, verbal attacker, rushing
maniac, vigilante and scofflaw. End of chapter checklists help readers assess their risk
for road rage.
The driver's prime directive is to remain in control of the vehicle, the self and the
situation. In a zero-tolerance society, people have an attitude and a sense of entitlement
that destroys harmony and emphasizes retaliation. This is a quick formula for loss of
control since you don't know how the driver you flipped off will react, whether to ignore
you or pursue you. It's about choices. We can choose to practice civility and aloha or its
opposite. By restoring a sense of community on highways and becoming supportive drivers we
can reduce the daily commute stress that has become a health hazard to everyone.
The two experts trace the history of road rage to 19th century England, where
"furious driving" laws were passed to control horse drawn carriages barreling
through town on Saturday nights after drivers left taverns in a drunken state. Since 1981,
England has passed tough road rage laws that land motorists in jail who yell or threaten
other drivers. This year in the U.S. tough new aggressive driving bills are being
considered in 22 States, including Hawaii. Several new laws raise the penalty for
aggressive driving to a felony and give police the right to impound offending vehicles.
The federal government supports anti-aggressive driving initiatives by police departments
throughout the country.
For free information on road rage please visit the authors' Web site:
Maui Time Magazine (January 2001)
From the book Road Rage and Aggressive Driving: Steering Clear of Highway Warfare
(Prometheus Books, 2000) by Leon James and Diane Nahl.
Checklist: Your Road Range Tendency
Instructions: For each question, circle Yes if the statement applies to you reasonably
well, or No if it doesn't.
1. I swear a lot more in traffic than I do elsewhere.
2. I normally have critical thoughts about other drivers.
3. When a driver in a parking lot tries to steal the space I've been waiting for, I get
4. I fantasize about doing violence to other drivers (e.g., using guns or blowing them
up or sweeping them aside). But it's just fantasy.
5. When drivers do something really "stupid" that endangers me or my car, I
get furious, even aggressive.
6. It's good to get your anger out because we all have aggressive feelings inside that
naturally come out under stressful situations.
7. When I'm very upset about something, it's a relief to step on the gas to give my
feelings an outlet.
8. I feel that it's important to force certain drivers to behave appropriately on the
9. Pedestrians shouldn't have the right to walk slowly in crosswalks when cars are
10. Pushy drivers really annoy me so I bad-mouth them to feel better.
11. I tailgate when someone drives too slow for conditions or in the passing lane.
12. I try to get to my destination in the shortest time possible, or else it doesn't
13. If I stopped driving aggressively others would take advantage of my passivity.
14. I feel unpleasant emotions when someone beats me to the light or when someone gets
through and I'm stuck on red.
15. I feel energized by the sense of power and competition I experience while driving
16. I hate speed bumps and speed limits that are set too low.
17. Once in a while I get so frustrated in traffic that I begin to drive somewhat
18. I hate large trucks and I refuse to drive differently around them.
19. Sometimes I feel that I'm holding up traffic so I start driving faster than I feel
20. I would feel embarrassed to "get stuck" behind a large vehicle on a steep
Scoring your answers: Give yourself 1 road rage point for every Yes answer. How many do
Interpreting your score: Scores range from 0 to 20. Few drivers ever get 0 because road
rage emotions are habitual and cultural. We all have some tendency toward it sometimes.
The higher the score, the more likely it is that you will be the victim of road rage
trouble. Typical scores range from 5 to 20 with an average of 12.
If your score is less than 5 you're not an aggressive driver and your road rage
tendency is manageable. Scores between 5 and 10 indicate that you have moderate road rage
habits of driving. If your score is greater than 10 your road rage tendency is out of
control, enough to compromise your ability to remain calm and fair in certain routine, but
challenging driving situations.