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Interview with Leon James

Weekly Magazine Seattle, Washington  Devona  November 1997

The increase of motorists on today's road ways correlates with increased traffic in other places as well. Such as banks, supermarkets, etc,. Why is there road rage and not supermarket rage?

What a good question--I haven't been asked this one before, but my wife Diane and I have been talking about it for quite awhile: the answer is Yes, there is supermarket rage, and other forms of rage we've observed in public places, as well as private, such as "relationship rage" and "husband rage" etc. The fact is that rage or anger is with every one of us, by birth. Which is why we need character reformation as part of continuing education for all. My proposal for CARR (Children Against Road Rage) and YARR (Youth Against Road Rage), recognize the idea that we need to train people from childhood onward how to handle rage, and road rage.

In a recent article in the Washington Post, a Police officer stated that people on the roadways have no respect for their fellow drivers, why is that?

There are several reasons, and each must be dealt with, if we're going to improve the situation. First, we have a cultural norm of disrespect on highways, encouraged by car talk, car symbolism, car commercials, and cartoons and movies portraying drivers behaving badly (see my proposal for movie and commercial rating scheme on my Web site.) Second, we have much greater density of vehicles per road so we need to teach people how to be nice and supportive to one another, especially how to identify with the highway community as a collective instead of self-focus as a competitive driver. This requires social-group forces such as belonging to a Quality Driving Circle (QDC) as explained on my Web site. This would accomplish what you are striving for:

How can we as a community take steps to decrease road rage in our areas as well as encourage - good driving etiquette when we are constantly victims of aggressive behavior?

And so you ask:

How effective do you think recent measures to decrease road rage have been?

I have argued that law enforcement and increased surveillance will not work and will have potentially bad side effects (some of which you point out). Hence, grass roots citizen activism against aggressive driving such as QDCs, Lifelong Driver's Ed, CARR/YARR, and CASAD (Washington based: Citizens Against Speeding and Aggressive Driving--see my Web site).

You also ask:

And ultimately, what about the bad driver?

First, we need to focus on training and re-training all drivers. This will reduce the frequency of bad drivers you encounter on the road. Second, we need to train drivers for tolerating greater diversity on the road: older people, sick people, and yes, drivers who are obstructionist and block the left lane as a vigilante tactic of rage.

Finally, you ask:

The Police can educate us on how to report aggressive driver's but honestly what can we do about the scared, freaked out driver's who are already too afraid to even concentrate on their driving? Or the people on the telephone's who are too consumed with conducting their business on the road ways to even begin to be considerate drivers? How can we educate them, without sending a message to socially impaired driver's that it is okay to unleash their unwarranted anger on America's roadways?

The scared driver who is stressed out: I recommend all sorts of possible exercises that drivers can practice to overcome their fears, their stress, their anger, their dismay, their impatience. More equipment for communication is being placed in cars such as mobile telephones, GPS computers for maps and monitoring car location, CB radios, and other stuff that allow drivers to eat, receive e-mail, even watch TV (for passengers). All of this will require that drivers train themselves for multi-tasking in the car. Without training it will be another disaster.

In summary, your questions all relate to the very issues that DrDriving orients to: education and training. The fact is that as we are entering our second century of car society, with 180 million drivers in the U.S., we are realizing more and more that driving is a very complex activity for which we need to train drivers, and keep re-training them throughout their careers as drivers. It's the only way, in my considered opinion.

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