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Interview with Leon James

Nicolette Lennox, State Broadcaster RTE Radio 1 in Ireland, for the Tubridy show, November 22, 2007

We have a very interesting situation in our country in relation to people being allowed to drive unaccompanied on learners permits. We also have a very high failure rate when tests are taken. We have found a case study of a 31 year old male who lost his nerve. Would you perhaps be interested in commenting on how people can overcome their nervousness?

Please find the information about driving in Ireland underneath this:

(...) Recently, the Irish public were shocked to when it was revealed that as many as 29,000 drivers were on the roads with their 3rd or 4th provisional license, presumably having failed several tests.

(...) "Every year I get a few cards from traveling readers advising me that, for them, trying to drive in Ireland was a nerve-racking and regrettable mistake. To get a little slack on the roads, drop by a gas station or auto shop and buy a red "L" (new driver with license) sign to put in your window."

(...) Basically, what's needed is a change in road culture, a cultural paradigm shift, Lonero argues. He made that case in a recent paper entitled Finding the next cultural paradigm for road safety, which he produced for the Washington-based AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.


Here are some notes and comments for your listeners:

In 1997 I presented my congressional testimony as expert witness to the US
House of Representatives, in which I provide, what I believe to be, the
full solution to the problem of driving that is encountered in every
country today, some more than others, some a little less. Below, I provide
links to the testimony article, and a couple of others on the same
subject with more detail.

Let me restate in brief what my approach is:

Aggressive driving is a a culturally acquired attitude and behavioral
syndrome. The back seat of the car is road rage nursery. Aggressive
driving and road rage are bred into us as infants in the backseat imbibing
the adult driver's emotional intensity and negativity towards other
motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, semi-trucks, and whatever else is using
the road. Verbal road rage is a constant stream of vituperations and
insults about other drivers and road users, police, constructions workers,
the government. It is accompanied by mental road rage whose main feature
is venting and rehearsing fantasies of retaliation against this or that
offensive motorist or pedestrian. At this point we are raising the next
generation of aggressive drivers and roadragers, and each generation
perfects the negative practice and makes things worse. Driving has now
become the most dangerous activity for people to do on a daily basis.

The solution is lifelong driver education. Beginning with grade 1 when
children begin to use the roads on their own as pedestrians, passengers,
cyclists. You can check the details in the articles below. After licensing
drivers will have to be reissued the license at prescribed intervals,
which is a common practice in most countries. In this lifelong driver
education program re-licensing will depend on the driver showing
attendance at driver support group workshops, courses, or activities,
which I call QDCs or Quality Driving Circles. Again, see details in the

Driver self-modification efforts are required over the entire career of
the driver, which may span 40 years or more. Driver skills need to improve
over the years as driving conditions are changing with more vehicles and
more in-car multi-tasking activities like computers and media attachments.

A lifelong program is costly to some extent, but far less than the cost we
are carrying today for the way we drive, and this cost is rising yearly.
In the US for example, 42,000 are killed each year and 6.5 million go to
the hospital each year with driving related injuries. This has been
estimated to cost the nation about 200 billion dollars annually, and
rising. Worldwide there are about 3 million driving related fatalities
each year. Most of this financial burden and psychological suffering would
be eliminated with just a tiny fraction of the cost of implementing
a lifelong driver education program.

In relation specifically to the situation you describe in Ireland with
respect to the back log of drivers to be licensed: It is a result of
society not yet ready to acknowledge that it needs to devote more
resources to the management of driving problems, thus not merely
licensing, but also re-licensing on some driver self-improvement
condition, and also implementing driver education and road use as part of
the basic skills every child should be taught.

Let me know if you need more.

My Congressional Testimony on Aggressive Driving

Two concept Papers: Instituting a Program of Lifelong Traffic Safety
Training and Promoting the Spread of Quality Driving Circles (QDC) for
Post-Licensing Driver Self-improvement Programs

Lifelong Driver's Education: A New Socio-Behavioral Proposal

My Web site:

Excerpts from the Book:
by Leon James and Diane Nahl

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