Interview with Leon James:
Jornal Valor Sao Paulo, Brazil Claudio Cordovil May 28, 2000
Claudio Cordovil: How many deaths are caused by road rage each year?
Leon James: Some people restrict the phrase road rage to assault and battery committed
by one driver against another after getting into a dispute over driving. In the U.S.
this occurs about 1200 a year, and it is rising by about 6% per year.
Others, including myself and the government and safety experts, define
road rage and aggressive driving together. It is more common in
legislation to use the phrase "aggressive driving legislation" rather than
road rage legislation. This is because aggressive driving does not usually
involve assault or battery.
A few vocal groups, now growing every year, disagree that traffic
violations should be considered "aggressive driving."
In terms of numbers, I estimate that every driver experiences road rage
EMOTIONS on every trip, several times a day.
Claudio Cordovil: Do you believe that we must consider road rage as a kind of public health problem?
Leon James: Road rage and aggressive driving are public health issues. First because
of the incidence:
**200 billion road rage exchanges a year in the U.S.
**42,000 fatalities a year, most of which could be avoided
**6 million crashes, 4 million injuries, 250 billion dollars cost
All this for one year adds up to an epidemic. Then you must add the stress
and pollution factors as additional costs. Each of the 200 billion
incidents of road rage or hostile exchanges creates some stress. Each
added stress level has negative consequences on health, lowering immune
system functioning, and increasing cardio-vascular damage.
In terms of pollution, the cost runs into billions of dollars a year when
you consider (a) how many extra and unnecessary times drivers use the gas
pedal then the break due to road rage, impatience, aggressiveness; This
requires extra fuel for every driver per year. More oil imports, higher
prices per gallon, and more pollution in the air that has further economic
and health consequences.
How did I arrive at 400 billion road rage exchanges? Multiply this:
125 million drivers in the US every day X 365 days X 10 hostile aggressive
road rage exchanges per trip = a little over 400 billion (and this is a
conservative estimate. Try it on your own: next time you drive, how many
times do you get angry or hostile or annoyed at another driver?)
Claudio Cordovil: What aggressive road rage is becoming more common?
In terms of assault and battery: shooting and using the car to ram
In terms of aggressive behavior: running red lights, not yielding, lane
hopping, insulting gestures and words, driving and drinking, speeding. The
new aggressive driving laws in 16 states propose that aggressive driving
be defined as 3 or more traffic infractions committed within a few minutes
or miles, as observed by an officer.
Claudio Cordovil: Is road rage increasing?
Leon James: Yes. As congestion increases, drivers are more challenged emotionally to
remain civilized and polite. This is possible to learn, but they need to
be taught self-modification techniques. Please mention my Web site
DrDriving.org where people can obtain information on such techniques. Also
please mention my new book that offers such information:
Leon James and Diane Nahl: ROAD RAGE AND AGGRESSIVE DRIVING
In addition to congestion, we are making aggressiveness to be a learned
generational habit. We are teaching our children now to grow up to be
aggressive drivers by the way we behave in the car when they ride with
us. Also, TV, cartoons, movies, and commercials all portray drivers behaving badly,
and children learn from that by imitation and modeling. So
aggressive driving will increase with every generation, unless
counteracted by new education.
I have a Web site devoted to aggressive driving prevention activities
parents can do with their children.
or else just go to the main site at http://DrDriving.org and link from
there. CARR stands for Children Against Road Rage and I believe we owe our
children this prevention program. Driver education should start in grade
1, not in high school. I provide details of a Lifelong Driver
Self-Improvement Program in my Congressional testimony on the Web:
Claudio Cordovil: Are there
differences in aggressive driving across countries--
is it a universal epidemic?
Leon James: Yes, it is universal. I follow Newsgroups on the Web with participating
drivers from England, Australia, Canada, Singapore, India, etc. Same thing
everywhere. I consulted with officials from the Motor Vehicle Department
in China where they have a road rage epidemic among their 17 million
commercial drivers. I also created a course for law enforcement to deal
with the problem and the San Antonio police department is now distributing
TEE Cards at traffic stops. These cards are driver education cards I
created. See this Web site on TEE Cards. I also consult with trucking safely schools
and emergency vehicle operators. It's the same problem everywhere.
Claudio Cordovil: Why car industry doesn't engage in the war against road rages by the
creation of technical devices that punishes that kind of behavior?
For example, the fitting of long sharps spikes sticking out from the
center of every steering wheel pointing to the heart of each driver
engaged in rage or being alcohol impaired?
Leon James: I think there needs to be a greater awareness that the problem can be
solved without punishing the drivers, but retraining them. Law enforcement
and punishment will only go so far in solving the problem. The true
solution lies in a lifelong self-improvement program such as I have
proposed. It's called Quality Driving Circles or QDCs. These are small
groups of 6 to 10 drivers meeting regularly and helping one another carry
out self-improvement activities. I recommend the threestep program.
Claudio Cordovil: What is the efficacy of psychotherapeutic-like techniques in order to
deal with that problem? What is the approach that you recommend?
Leon James: You can't give everybody psychotherapy. Besides, aggressive driving is
normal. Part of our socialization process. Now we need to change that
Claudio Cordovil: Can it be seen as a symptom of society's growing loss of
community, a decay of moral values?
Leon James: People need to realize that the opposite of aggressive driving is
supportive driving. This means seeing it as a community task, not as a war
or competitive sport. With a teamwork orientation, driving can be a
community builder by everyone being nice to each other, just as in a
family. We can switch if we make it into a national and educational
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