Home>Road Rage News Stories Part 1

Collection of Road Rage News Stories Around the World

compiled and edited by Dr. Leon James

See also:  Road Rage News Stories that are Quoting Leon James

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From the BBC World Service


Rage Rage Rage Rage Rage Rage Rage

Look forward in anger or rage?

In May 1951, Dylan Thomas wrote the poem Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night, addressing his father who was approaching bundness and death. The final lines are: Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. In 1956, John Osborne's play Look Back In Anger was first performed. Its main character Jimmy Porter became known as the "Angry Young Man", and typified the playwrights of Osborne's generation. In the 1990s, it seems that English language users are heeding the message of Thomas rather than Osborne.

An AA Driver Education Foundation article (http://www.aadef.co.nz/roadrage.shtml) says: "In the late 1980s, drivers in the US, apparently frustrated by increasing congestion, began fighting and shooting each other on a regular basis, victims of what the popular press termed road rage." and goes on to inform us that "In the US, unverified figures of up to 1200 road rage related deaths a year have been reported." In a survey of 526 British motorists carried out in January 1995, 90 per cent had experienced "road rage" incidents in the previous twelve months and 60 per cent admitted to losing their tempers behind the wheel, indulging in aggressive tailgating (driving very close to the vehicle in front of you), headlight flashing, obscene gestures, deliberate obstruction of other vehicles, or verbal abuse. 1 per cent of drivers claim to have been physically assaulted by other motorists.

But some people insist that road rage is nothing new: the Oldie magazine recently printed an item of carriage rage from 1817: Last week I had a row on the road with a fellow in a carriage who was impudent to my horse. I gave him a swinging box on the ear.

In the Bank of English, a large computerized collection (or corpus) of 1990s English language texts containing 329 million words (http://www.cobuild.collins.co.uk/boe_info.shtmll), road rage occurs 249 times. The corpus also reveals how quickly the rage phenomenon is spreading to other aspects of our social behaviour. In the 5859 corpus examples for rage, we find that car drivers also encounter car rage, driver rage, car-park rage (or parking rage) and alarm rage (when their alarms go off for no apparent reason in a quiet street, offending victims of noise rage). Other forms of transport are not immune: air rage (which became particularly prominent in 1998 and 1999), rail rage (or on London Underground, Tube rage), bike rage, roller rage, and even pram rage.

Every activity seems to generate rage: supermarket shoppers experience trolley rage or checkout rage, pedestrians exhibit pavement rage, workers have to cope with work rage (keyboard rage in offices, runway rage at airports), and phone users meet with phone rage (also voicemail rage). No areas of our cities are spared: neighbour rage and neighbourhood rage flourish, staff and customers find that bank rage (and perhaps broker-rage) occurs in banks, bar rage in pubs (also pub rage). Doctors are unable to cure us, instead they have to deal with hospital rage (or ward rage) in hospitals and steroid users affected by "roid (steroid) rage". Indeed, mental health professionals are now diagnosing rage disorder.

Activities specifically aimed at calming us down are no longer effective: sports are giving rise to golf rage, pool rage (swimmers), and piste rage (skiers). Gentle gardeners are succumbing to hose rage (joined by other water consumers in water rage). Even yoga teachers report meditation rage in their students. Animals, too, are not immune: dogs suffer from canine rage syndrome, and chickens from roost rage.

One could say: "rage is all the rage"! Or as Shakespeare put it in his Sonnets (number 65): Since brass, nor stone, nor earth nor boundless sea, But said mortality o'ersways their power, How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea, Whose action is no stronger than a flower?

So what can we do about it? In a 1989 article in the Wall Street Journal about "boot camps" for offenders, Bill Earls asks: But will real or feigned anger work with people who think rage is the norm, and that punching, kicking or stabbing is an accepted way to show displeasure?

To set the record straight, although rage seems to have made a sudden and forceful impact in the 1990s, it is in fact anger which dominates the English language. John Osborne, not Dylan Thomas, is the watchword: the Bank of English has 13,551 examples of anger compared to the paltry 5,859 examples for rage reviewed above. But we tend not to notice anger as much, because it occurs much more frequently in books than in newspapers. Which raises the question: should literature or journalism be the touchstone of a language?

original here

 

December 20, 1995

Web page 'shames' bad drivers
From San Francisco Bureau Chief Greg Lefevre

SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- Most drivers think the only thing they have to worry about on the road is getting stopped by police. Now, thanks to a new home page on the World Wide Web, driver foul-ups on California's Highway 17 will be available for the world to see.

Curt Feigel and his friend Emil Gallant travel the road looking for bad drivers. The pair commute together through the twisty roads of the Santa Cruz Mountains on their way to work in Silicon Valley.

When they spot an offender, Feigel whips out his digital camera, takes a picture of the car and posts it along with some choice comments about the bone-head move on the Highway 17 Web Page of Shame, which Gallant designed and maintains.

Original continued here

24 January 1996

The Electronic Telegraph

Road rage is driving Britain to distraction
John Langley, Motoring Correspondent
ALMOST three-quarters of drivers have been the victims of road rage, according to the 1996 annual Lex Report on Motoring.

Aggressive behaviour, ranging from gestures and verbal abuse to physical attacks, is spoiling motoring for many people, says the report.

During the past year, 1.8m have been forced to pull over or off the road and 800,000 have been threatened.

Some 500,000 people have had their cars deliberately driven into, and 250,000 have been attacked by other drivers. Another 250,000 have had their cars attacked by another driver.

Road rage is more common in cities, though here it is more likely to take the form of verbal abuse or gesturing, with 44 per cent claiming to have been victims in the past 12 months.

In rural areas, physical attacks are more likely, with nine per cent being forced off the road during the year.

The survey of 1,229 drivers - and for the first time this year, 717 non-drivers - suggests evidence of a North-South divide to the problem. Physical attacks or threats were most common in London and the South-East, the South-West and Wales.

Gestures and swearing were more common in Scotland, the North and the Midlands. Younger drivers and drivers who speed were most likely to be the victims.

Traffic congestion and "the pressure to get from A to B in time" are among the reasons blamed for the road rage phenomenon, which is claimed to be widespread.

The things which upset drivers most were identified as cruising in the middle lane (60 per cent) and outside lane (55 per cent) on motorways, inside lane overtakers (50 per cent), and speeding in towns and cities (45 per cent).

 

The police deny the existence of 'road rage' as a problem

The RAC last night called for a concerted campaign by motorists, the police and the Government "to drive violence off our roads". It said its repeated calls for Government action to counter aggression and violence had been met with inaction.

"The buck has been passed from Government department to department, with the police denying the existence of 'road rage' as a problem," said a spokesman. "The Lex Report reveals the reality of motorists' experience - stress, aggression and acts of violence are on the increase."

Edmund King, the RAC's head of campaigns, said statistics of road rage should be compiled by the police. "We are going round in circles," he said. "The police say that road rage does not exist. We say how can they say it does not exist if they do not keep any statistics?

"We believe that anyone who has been convicted of a serious driving offence involving violence should have to undergo counseling, and should not get their licence back until they can show that they are unlikely to offend again."

The Lex Report, carried out by MORI, is one of the most comprehensive annual reviews of opinion among Britain's motorists.

It shows that a growing number of drivers now agree with non-drivers that public transport should be improved, though there is little evidence that they would forsake their cars to use it.

The majority want more bypasses but there is little support for building or widening motorways. Many support the causes behind protests against congestion, pollution and new road-building, though far fewer back extreme methods used by some protesters.

Sir George Young, the Transport Secretary, said in a foreword that "we are seeing a shift in public opinion from road-based solutions towards less environmentally damaging alternatives.

"Motorists are well as non-car users seem to be increasingly aware of the need for restraint measures."

 

February 20, 1996

ROAD RAGE - WAVE IT GOODBYE

The Guild of Experienced Motorists, is urging its 65,000 members to 'wave away road rage'.


David Williams, the Guild's road safety officer, said: "An appreciative or apologetic gesture can without doubt bring about a change in attitude from drivers around you. Acknowledging, with a simple wave, any consideration directed at you, or to apologize for making an error on the road, will reduce incidents that can so often lead to hostile behaviour and crashes."


Although the term 'road rage' is fairly new, hostile and discourteous behaviour on the roads in not. Indeed, as long ago at 1932 the Guild was formed (under its original name of The Company of Veteran Motorists) partly to eliminate such 'ungentlemanly and unsafe' behaviour. The Guild's slogan of the 3Cs - Care, Courtesy and Concentration - still represents the qualities needed by good, safe drivers," Mr Williams continued.


The Guild, through its members' magazine Good Motoring, recommends that all drivers follow its lead and adopt a 'wave away road rage' policy.

David Williams concluded: "The causes of road rage are many and varied but some of the main factors which have been identified are stress, fatigue and frustration. If drivers were to adopt a more courteous approach to their driving, these factors could be greatly reduced and maybe the problem of road rage could simply be waved away."

 

 


March 10, 1996

Road warriors, relax!
Angry driving is bad for your health, experts say
From Correspondent Jeff Levine

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Feeling stress behind the wheel may be a familiar sensation for hundreds of drivers, but some medical experts say it could be more than just a temporary irritant. It could be a health hazard.

A recent British study shows 55 percent of commuters are stressed on their daily drive to and from work.

"It feels like I want to get out of the car, leave it there, and walk the rest of the way," says one harried driver.

Original continued here


October 14, 1996

AP (Honolulu) -- Nasty driving attitudes have become a subject of scholarly study since University of Hawaii psychology professor Leon James began researching the minds of drivers.

James' study turned up that "drivers are stressed out, threaten each other, are in a bad mood, terrorize their passengers, and often fantasize violent acts against each other.:

He says this shows there is a strong need for driving psychology which can reverse this trend and alter our driving style. He suggests driving counseling services for the public.

Since the federal government let states raise highway speed limits last winter, an Associated Press survey found at least eight states that did so have seen increases in highway deaths. Yet four other states that raised limits actually saw fatal accidents drop slightly.
 

Warfare on the Highway: Road Rage

by Jeff Siegel

The psychological and sociological condition known as road rage--which has probably always been with us in one form or another--seems to have taken on a new and disconcerting prominence as the 20th century comes to a close. According to a study by the American Automobile Association, this decade has already seen more than 200 people killed and almost 13,000 injured as the result of a road rage incident in the United States.

You've seen it happen as you drive to work--someone tries to merge onto the freeway and a driver in the right lane speeds up to cut the incoming car off. You've read about it in the newspaper--two drivers chase each other down the highway for three or four miles, waving and cursing at each other. And you've seen it on TV--two motorists leave their cars and continue their dispute on a parking lot, sometimes even brandishing a gun.

It's road rage--and while it may not be a new phenomenon, it certainly does seem to have taken on a new and disconcerting prominence.

"I'm sure that years ago, it was called horse and carriage rage," says Len Tuzman, DSW, a specialist in road rage who is the director of social work services at Hillside Hospital at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York. "In that respect, it isn't anything new. But what is new is that it seems more newsworthy than ever before."

Road rage, say people who have studied the subject, is essentially an expression of anger that usually has nothing to do with traffic or driving. It is probably a behavior related to "acting out", common among teen-age boys who lose their temper and don't have any real idea of why they go around the house slamming doors and cursing their parents.

Regardless of the source, road rage is a release of anger that may have built up during the day and comes out when you get in the car for the drive home. When you wave your fist at someone who cuts you off, you may be mad at your boss. When you're cut off by another driver as you try to change lanes, you may be the client who stiffed him on a big order.

"It's not always a good idea to get into the car after you've had a fight with your mate," says Krishna Gujavarty, MD, the chairman of the psychiatry department at Nassau County Medical Center in East Meadow, Long Island. "That's when you tend to drive faster and more aggressively, and that's how the trouble starts."

From: Yahoo! Coverage of Road Rage

-- Last month, Lee Parker, a 49-year-old father of five, was shot to death by another motorist on the 7200 South on-ramp. Hours later, police arrested 20-year-old Jose Garcia Miramontes, who they say sideswiped the victim's car before shooting him. He has been charged with capital homicide.

-- In March, a man fired shots into another car traveling on Interstate 15, striking two occupants in the hands. That same man is charged with brandishing a weapon a few days later at another motorist after a minor altercation in a parking lot.

-- In April, a Salt Lake County woman was sentenced to 15 years in prison in the March 1996 death of Joann Collett. After a fender-bender, Collett got out of her car to talk to Sharane Kearney, but Kearney started to drive away. Collett then stepped in front of Kearney's 1966 Lincoln Continental. Kearney gunned the engine and hit Collett, whose body was pinned under the car and dragged along 3900 South.

-- A South Jordan man escaped without injury in April after another motorist on I-215 fired shots into his car. Jeff Jolley had honked as another car, driving in a closed-off lane, passed him. As both cars exited at 1300 South, occupants of a blue sports car shot two rounds at Jolley's car.

-- Larry Lemm honked at J.C. Edgar King's car because it was stopped in the middle of 1300 West. That honk led to an altercation that has left Lemm partly disabled and the elderly King with a criminal conviction on his otherwise clean record. The altercation occurred Labor Day weekend 1995, and Lemm is still fighting with King. ``You wonder when he's going to take responsibility for it,'' said Lemm, who has sued for damages in the incident, which left him with two injured knees requiring surgery. A fatal act of road rage happened in Dallas in February. A delivery van driven by a 33-year-old man collided with a pickup driven by a 42-year old man. A side mirror was broken in the minor collision. The delivery driver got out of the van and argued with the pickup driver. The delivery man started punching the older man as he sat in his truck. The punchee pulled out his licensed, concealed .40-caliber handgun and shot the puncher in the chest. Police charged the shooter with murder, but a grand jury refused to indict him, clearing him in the road rage killing. Texas justice, baby.

Keith cites an incident last year in which a motorist confronted a Boston school bus driver who allegedly cut him off. After spitting in the bus driver's face, the motorist returned to his car. Angered, the bus driver left his vehicle to confront the motorist, only to receive a thrashing in the street. "He beat the hell out of him," Keith says.

Mike Hoffner, regional coordinator with the Ohio School Bus Safety Program in Circleville, says he recalls an incident in which a bus driver pulled over after being signaled by the driver of a trash-hauling truck.

"The trucker didn't look upset, so, not thinking, the driver opened the door," Hoffner says. "He thought the guy was going to tell him there might be something wrong with the bus. Next thing he knew, the guy went back to one of the teenagers and punched him, bloodying his nose, and said 'thank you,' and on his way he went."

Turns out the kids had tossed a soda can at the trash hauler and had followed that with a obscene hand gesture.

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Such was the case in Toledo recently, Webber said, when troopers handled a crash involving a vehicle that intentionally rammed a car carrying a mother and father and their three kids. The reckless driver, who was eventually charged with felonious assault and driving under the influence, told troopers he ran into the other car because one of the children gave him an "obscene finger gesture."

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Road rage ends in stabbing death - Milwaukee police said Wednesday the death of 22-year-old John Sentowski, who was stabbed repeatedly by another motorist Saturday in the 4400 block of W. Sumac Place, was likely a case of "road rage." Sentowski was stabbed with an unknown instrument by the driver of another car after a traffic disagreement escalated from obscene gestures to violence.


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Some of the incidents are so ludicrous you can't help but laugh--albeit nervously. There was the case in Salt Lake City, where 75-year-old J. C. King--peeved that 41-year-old Larry Remm Jr. honked at him for blocking traffic--followed Remm when he pulled off the road, hurled his prescription bottle at him, and then, in a display of geriatric resolve, smashed Remm's knees with his '92 Mercury. In tony Potomac, Md., Robin Ficker--an attorney and ex-state legislator--knocked the glasses off a pregnant woman after she had the temerity to ask him why he bumped her Jeep with his.


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In Ohio, there is a mother of two who was jockeying for position on a highway with a pregnant woman. She ended up slamming on her brakes on purpose to SHOW HER RAGE, and the pregnant woman hit a pole and went flying....lost the baby. The mother of two was sentenced to over a year in prison for Vehicular Manslaughter of the fetus (cause Ohio has a statute that recognizes the rights of a fetus). This could be ANYONE of us who inappropriately expresses him/herself this way.

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A bicyclist enraged at being knocked off his bike by a car outside Washington D.C. got up, pulled out a handgun and shot the driver to death, police said on Thursday. The bicyclist killed 19-year-old Joy Mariano Enriquez, a college student, with a single shot in the head. He ran off on foot but was caught 10 minutes later, a Maryland police statement said.

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On Aug. 3, while trying to park his car on South Street, a 23-year-old West Philly man was shot in the head by another driver who wanted the spot. A week later, an argument between the occupants of two cars on Allegheny Avenue erupted into gunfire. A 19-year-old woman was shot in the head. On Aug. 12, the driver of a sport-utility vehicle tried to run a van driver off the road in Upper Darby. After a collision, the first driver stabbed the second in the leg.

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Earlier this month, a college professor pulled a gun on a federal drug agent and the agent punched him, ending a dispute that started on Interstate 43 near downtown Milwaukee, according to police. The agent told police the professor cut him off, while the professor's attorney says the agent turned his high beams on the professor's car.

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The incident occurred around 8:00 AM on Monday, August 10, when Reader, who was driving a 1991 Chevrolet pickup westbound on US 30, had been involved in a verbal confrontation at Hillcrest Rd. with another motorist, Nicholas Costea III, 31 of Dover, regarding the brake lights on Reader¹s pickup. Both drivers continued westbound after the verbal confrontation until they were stopped again behind traffic waiting to turn. That¹s when Reader pointed a 9 mm handgun out of the drivers window of the pickup at Costea. Reader did not fire any shots from the weapon. Costea reported the incident to a trooper that was in the area. Reader turned himself into troopers at the Wooster post of the Highway Patrol a short time later, confessing that he had pointed the gun at another motorist.

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There was the case in Salt Lake City, where 75-year-old J. C. King--peeved that 41-year-old Larry Remm Jr. honked at him for blocking traffic--followed Remm when he pulled off the road, hurled his prescription bottle at him, and then, in a display of geriatric resolve, smashed Remm's knees with his '92 Mercury. In tony Potomac, Md., Robin Ficker--an attorney and ex-state legislator--knocked the glasses off a pregnant woman after she had the temerity to ask him why he bumped her Jeep with his.

In Colorado Springs, 55-year-old Vern Smalley persuaded a 17-year-old boy who had been tailgating him to pull over; Smalley decided that, rather than merely scold the lad, he would shoot him. (And he did. Fatally--after the youth had threatened him.) And last year, on Virginia's George Washington Parkway, a dispute over a lane change was settled with a high-speed duel that ended when both drivers lost control and crossed the center line, killing two innocent motorists.


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In another recent county incident, a 3-year-old Fredericksburg girl was critically injured when her father engaged another motorist in a three-mile dispute along Interstate 95 near Dumfries.

Robert Finck, 37, has been charged with reckless driving and failure to properly secure his daughter, Brenna, in a child safety seat. He faces up to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine when he appears in Prince William General District Court on Feb. 7.

Finck and another driver, Fred Lee Hamilton, 20, of Locust Grove, chased each other down a three-mile stretch of the highway last month until Finck collided with another car and flipped into the median, Caldwell said.

She said Finck and Hamilton blamed each other for the dispute, each saying the other pulled in front of their vehicle, flashed headlights and made gestures.

``It's hard to believe [Finck] would endanger flesh and blood in that manner," said Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert, who often tries cases of reckless driving caused by angry motorists. ``They might as well have had two guns," he said.

From: Yahoo! Coverage of Road Rage

 


 

June 2, 1997

USA News Cover Story

ROAD RAGE

Tailgating, giving the finger, outright violence--Americans grow more likely to take out their frustrations on other drivers BY JASON VEST, WARREN COHEN, AND MIKE THARP

Some of the incidents are so ludicrous you can't help but laugh--albeit nervously. There was the case in Salt Lake City, where 75-year-old J. C. King--peeved that 41-year-old Larry Remm Jr. honked at him for blocking traffic--followed Remm when he pulled off the road, hurled his prescription bottle at him, and then, in a display of geriatric resolve, smashed Remm's knees with his '92 Mercury. In tony Potomac, Md., Robin Ficker--an attorney and ex-state legislator--knocked the glasses off a pregnant woman after she had the temerity to ask him why he bumped her Jeep with his.

Other incidents lack even the element of black humor. In Colorado Springs, 55-year-old Vern Smalley persuaded a 17-year-old boy who had been tailgating him to pull over; Smalley decided that, rather than merely scold the lad, he would shoot him. (And he did. Fatally--after the youth had threatened him.) And last year, on Virginia's George Washington Parkway, a dispute over a lane change was settled with a high-speed duel that ended when both drivers lost control and crossed the center line, killing two innocent motorists.

Anyone who spent the Memorial Day weekend on the road probably won't be too surprised to learn the results of a major study to be released this week by the American Automobile Association: The rate of "aggressive driving" incidents--defined as events in which an angry or impatient driver tries to kill or injure another driver after a traffic dispute--has risen by 51 percent since 1990. In those cases studied, 37 percent of offenders used firearms against other drivers, an additional 28 percent used other weapons, and 35 percent used their cars.

Fear of (and participation in) aggressive driving has grown so much that in a poll last year residents of Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia listed it as a bigger concern than drunk driving. The Maryland highway department is running a campaign called "The End of the Road for Aggressive Drivers," which, among other things, flashes anti-road-rage messages on electronic billboards on the interstates. Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey have initiated special highway patrols targeting aggressive drivers. A small but busy community of therapists and scholars has arisen to study the phenomenon and counsel drivers on how to cope. And several members of Congress are now trying to figure out ways to legislate away road rage.

Lest one get unduly alarmed, it helps to put the AAA study's numbers in context: Approximately 250,000 people have been killed in traffic since 1990. While the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that two thirds of fatalities are at least partially caused by aggressive driving, the AAA study found only 218 that could be directly attributable to enraged drivers. Of the more than 20 million motorists injured, the survey identified 12,610 injuries attributable to aggressive driving. While the study is the first American attempt to quantify aggressive driving, it is not rigorously scientific. The authors drew on reports from 30 newspapers--supplemented by insurance claims and police reports from 16 cities--involving 10,037 occurrences. Moreover, the overall trendlines for car accidents have continued downward for several decades, thanks in part to increases in the drinking age and improvements in car technology like high-mounted brake lights.

But researchers believe there is a growing trend of simple aggressive behavior--road rage--in which a driver reacts angrily to other drivers. Cutting them off, tailgating, giving the finger, waving a fist--experts believe these forms of nonviolent fury are increasing. "Aggressive driving is now the most common way of driving," says Sandra Ball-Rokeach, who codirects the Media and Injury Prevention Program at the University of Southern California. "It's not just a few crazies--it's a subculture of driving."

In focus groups set up by her organization, two thirds of drivers said they reacted to frustrating situations aggressively. Almost half admitted to deliberately braking suddenly, pulling close to the other car, or taking some other potentially dangerous step. Another third said they retaliated with a hostile gesture. Drivers show great creativity in devising hostile responses. Doug Erber of Los Angeles keeps his windshield-wiper-fluid tank full. If someone tailgates, he turns on the wipers, sending fluid over his roof onto the car behind him. "It works better than hitting the brakes," he says, "and you can act totally innocent."

Mad Max.

While the AAA authors note there is a profile of the lethally inclined aggressive driver--"relatively young, poorly educated males who have criminal records, histories of violence, and drug or alcohol problems"--road-rage scholars (and regular drivers) believe other groups are equally represented in the less violent forms of aggressive driving. To some, it's tempting to look at this as a psychologically mysterious Jekyll-and-Hyde phenomenon; for others, it's simply attributable to "jerk drivers." In reality, there's a confluence of emotional and demographic factors that changes the average citizen from mere motorist to Mad Max.

First, it isn't just your imagination that traffic is getting worse. Since 1987, the number of miles of roads has increased just 1 percent while the miles driven have shot up by 35 percent. According to a recent Federal Highway Administration study of 50 metropolitan areas, almost 70 percent of urban freeways today--as opposed to 55 percent in 1983--are clogged during rush hour. The study notes that congestion is likely to spread to currently unspoiled locations. Forty percent of the currently gridlock-free Milwaukee County highway system, for example, is predicted to be jammed up more than five hours a day by the year 2000. A study by the Texas Transportation Institute last year found that commuters in one third of the largest cities spent well over 40 hours a year in traffic jams.

Part of the problem is that jobs have shifted from cities to suburbs. Communities designed as residential suburbs with narrow roads have grown into "edge cities," with bustling commercial traffic. Suburb-to-suburb commutes now account for 44 percent of all metropolitan traffic versus 20 percent for suburb-to-downtown travel. Demographer and Edge City author Joel Garreau says workers breaking for lunch are essentially causing a third rush hour. He notes that in Tysons Corner, Va., it takes an average of four traffic signal cycles to get through a typical intersection at lunchtime. And because most mass transit systems are of a spoke-and-hub design, centering on cities and branching out to suburbs, they're not really useful in getting from point A to point B in an edge city or from one edge city to another. Not surprisingly, fewer people are relying on mass transit and more on cars. In 1969, 82.7 percent drove to work; in 1990, 91.4 percent did. Despite the fact that the Washington, D.C., area has an exemplary commuter subway system, it accounts for only 2 percent of all trips made.

Demographic changes have helped put more drivers on the road. Until the 1970s, the percentage of women driving was relatively low, and many families had only one car. But women entered the work force and bought cars, something developers and highway planners hadn't foreseen. From 1969 to 1990 the number of women licensed to drive increased 84 percent. Between 1970 and 1987, the number of cars on the road more than doubled. In the past decade, the number of cars grew faster (17 percent) than the number of people (10 percent). Even carpooling is down despite HOV lanes and other preferential devices. The cumulative effect, says University of Hawaii traffic psychology professor Leon James, is a sort of sensory overload. "There are simply more cars--and more behaviors--to deal with," says James.

As if the United States couldn't produce enough home-grown lousy drivers, it seems to be importing them as well. Experts believe that many immigrants come from countries that have bad roads and aggressive styles. It's not just drivers from Third World countries, though. British drivers are considered among the safest in Europe, yet recent surveys show that nearly 90 percent of British motorists have experienced threats or abuse from other drivers. Of Brits who drive for a living, about 21 percent report having been run off the road. In Australia, one study estimates that about half of all traffic accidents there may be due to road rage. "There are different cultures of driving all over the world--quite clearly, if we mix new cultures in the melting pot, what we get is a culture clash on the roadway," says John Palmer, a professor in the Health Education and Safety Department at Minnesota's St. Cloud State University.

The peak moment for aggressive driving comes not during impenetrable gridlock but just before, when traffic density is high but cars are still moving briskly. That's when cutting someone off or forcing someone out of a lane can make the difference (or so it seems) between being on time and being late, according to Palmer.

Unfortunately, roads are getting more congested just as Americans feel even more pressed for time. "People get on a time line for their car trips," says Palmer. "When they perceive that someone is impeding their progress or invading their agenda, they respond with what they consider to be `instructive' behavior, which might be as simple as flashing their lights to something more combative."

Suburban assault vehicles. This, uh, "instruction" has become more common, Palmer and others speculate, in part because of modern automotive design. With hyperadjustable seats, soundproof interiors, CD players, and cellular phones, cars are virtually comfortable enough to live in. Students of traffic can't help but wonder if the popularity of pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles has contributed to the problem. Sales have approximately doubled since 1990. These big metal shells loom over everything else, fueling feelings of power and drawing out a driver's more primal instincts. "A lot of the anecdotal evidence about aggressive driving incidents tends to involve people driving sport utility vehicles," says Julie Rochman of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "When people get these larger, heavier vehicles, they feel more invulnerable." While Chrysler spokesman Chris Preuss discounts the notion of suburban assault vehicles being behind the aggressive-driving phenomenon, he does say women feel more secure in the jumbo-size vehicles.

In much of life, people feel they don't have full control of their destiny. But a car--unlike, say, a career or a spouse--responds reliably to one's wish. In automobiles, we have an increased (but false) sense of invincibility. Other drivers become dehumanized, mere appendages to a competing machine. "You have the illusion you're alone and master, dislocated from other drivers," says Hawaii's James.

Los Angeles psychologist Arnold Nerenberg describes how one of his recent patients got into an angry road confrontation with another motorist. "They pulled off the road and started running toward each other to fight, but then they recognized each other as neighbors," he says. "When it's just somebody else in a car, it's more two-dimensional; the other person's identity boils down to, `You're someone who did something bad to me.' "

How can aggressive driving be minimized? Some believe that better driver's education might help. Driver's ed was a high school staple by the 1950s, thanks to federal highway dollars given to states. But a 1978 government study in De Kalb County, Ga., found no reduction in crashes or traffic violations by students who took a driver's ed course compared with those who didn't. Rather than use these results to design better driver's ed programs, the feds essentially gave up on them and diverted money to seat belt and anti-drunk-driving programs. Today, only 40 percent of new drivers complete a formal training course, which may be one reason 20 percent to 35 percent of applicants fail their initial driving test.

The inner driver. But governments are looking anew at the value of driver's education. In April, Michigan passed sweeping rules that grant levels of privilege depending on one's age and driving record. States with similar systems, like California, Maryland, and Oregon, have seen teen accident rates drop.

Those who lose their licenses often have to return to traffic school. But some states have generous standards for these schools. To wit: California's theme schools. There, errant drivers can attend the "Humor's My Name, Traffic's My Game," school, in which a mock jury led by a stand-up comic decides who the worst drivers are; the "Traffic School for Chocoholics," which plies errant drivers with chocolate and ice cream; and the gay and lesbian "Pink Triangle Traffic School."

But the real key to reducing road rage probably lies deep within each of us. Professor James of the University of Hawaii suggests that instead of emphasizing defensive driving--which implies that the other driver is the enemy--we should focus on "supportive driving" or "driving with the aloha spirit." Of course that's hard to do if a) someone has just cut you off at 60 mph or b) you live in Los Angeles instead of Hawaii. Nerenberg, the Los Angeles psychologist, has published an 18-page booklet called "Overcoming Road Rage: The 10-Step Compassion Program." He recommends examining what sets off road rage and to "visualize overcoming it." Other tips: Imagine you might be seeing that person at a party soon. And remember that other drivers "are people with feelings. Let us not humiliate them with our aggression." In the chapter titled, "Peace," he suggests, "Take a deep breath and just let it go." And if that doesn't work, the windshield-wiper trick is pretty clever.

With Anna Mulrine, Mary Lord, Brendan I. Koerner, Barbra Murray, and Steven D. Kaye

Original here

 
July 22, 1997
 

A Founding Father's rules
might cure raging drivers

by Michelle Malkin Seattle Times editorial columnist

Federal highway safety officials warned last week that "road rage" - an epidemic of vein-popping, middle-finger-thrusting, horn-honking, high-beam-flashing, vehicle-ramming proportions - is on the rise and getting deadlier.

(...)

Naturally, a new breed of experts in "traffic psychology" has arisen to provide a cure. They converged upon Congress last week peddling 3-step, 5-step, and 10-step programs to "acquire inner power at the wheel" and "engineer your own driving personality make-over." These gridlock gurus warned the House Transportation Committee that the world's car-bound population is facing a mental health crisis.

(...)

Most rage-related incidents, the experts explain, arise from trivial causes over parking spaces, obscene gestures, tailgating and turn signals. Thus the need, says renowned traffic psychologist Leon James (a k a "Dr. Driving") at the University of Hawaii, for specialized professional treatment to "slay your driving dragon" and "acquire personal self-management techniques as a driver."

(...)

Other experts blame an underlying lack of self-esteem for violent outbursts on wheels and propose extensive counseling to bolster the "emotional intelligences" of impaired drivers.

But why shell out precious tax dollars for such expensive 20th-century quackery? The problem isn't absence of self-esteem - but an utter lack of self-restraint. Two-and-a-half centuries ago, our Founding Father, George Washington, subscribed to a more cost-effective and time-tested program for reining in one's inner dragons. He carried a hand-copied list of self-improvement rules, originally set out by 16th-century Jesuit priests, wherever he went - from Valley Forge to Yorktown and throughout his presidency. The original manuscript is kept at the Library of Congress; rage-prone readers can purchase a newly published version of Washington's 110-step plan, with wry annotations by Richard Brookhiser, called "Rules of Civility: The 110 Precepts that Guided our First President in War and Peace" (Free Press: $16). This elegant, pocket-sized tome should be required reading for all licensed drivers.

Like many modern road-ragers, Washington was a hothead who faced mounting stress at work and at home. As Brookhiser notes, "Washington had a lot to be angry about over the course of his career: untrained soldiers, incompetent officers, difficult allies, quarrelsome associates (including Thomas Jefferson) - to say nothing of his own mistakes from losing battles to misjudging people . . . But if he had gone into uncontrollable rages at every disappointment or disaster, he would have ruined his health, besides ruining his effectiveness as a leader." Rather than let it all hang out, Washington tempered his temper by adhering to some basic rules of civil life:

Rule 1: "Every action done in company ought to be done with some sign of respect to those that are present."

(Modern translation for motorists: Don't give other drivers the finger when your mom is in the car. And leave the Marilyn Manson tape at home.)

Rule 22: "Shew not yourself glad at the misfortune of another though he were you enemy."

(Don't laugh when the tailgating jerk in the Army green Humvee gets pulled over by the cops.)

Rule 45: "In reproving shew no sign of choler, but do it with all sweetness and mildness."

(Smile when you chastise that student driver for stealing your parking space at the mall.)

Rule 49: "Use no reproachful language against any one, neither curse nor revile."

Rule 110: "Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience."

Washington worked hard to master the smallest gestures; success and survival in public life, he realized early on, began with self-regulation in dress, conversation and dining. The effect of all the rules taken together, notes Brookhiser, "is to remind you that you should not just do whatever feels right, or the first thing that comes into your head; rather you should always be mindful of other people, and remember that they have sensibilities and feelings of self-respect, that deserve your respect." Even if they've just cut you off in traffic or dozed off at a stoplight.

For men and motorists who aspire to something higher than boorishness, the "Rules of Civility" serve as clear and fundamental rules of the road without the psychobabble. Simple good manners, Washington taught, are the first step to greatness - and they may even save lives.

 



August 26, 1997

Experts say ignorance contributes to road rage

Good driving is difficult when rude is the rule

From Correspondent Kathleen Koch

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The term "road rage" is new to the American lexicon and bespeaks an explosive, behind-the-wheel ugliness that sometimes ends in tragedy.

Experts say there are a number of reasons for it. Crowded highways cause tailgating and near-collisions, they say. Another reason is the great urgency Americans have to reach their destination fast.

(...)

"When we get behind a car, some demon takes over and we become discourteous, illegal drivers that cause a lot of problems," says Terry Gainer, director of the Illinois State Police.

Safe-driving campaign starting A consumer coalition launching a nationwide safe-driving campaign believes that the majority of drivers, driven by a variety of pressures, let courtesy slide.

"First, driving has increased more rapidly than the road capacity," says Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America. "Second, people seem to be under more pressure, under more stress."

But many who are rude on the road simply ignore traffic rules, or have forgotten them, or never learned them at all. Times have changed since the 1970s, when 90 percent of people took drivers' education courses.

"Today, our estimate is that that's about 35 percent of the people," says Allen Robinson of the American Driver and Traffic Safety Association. "If people are not aware of what they should do, how do we blame them for what they don't do properly?"

(...)

In a survey of more than 1,000 adults, the consumer coalition found that 64 percent believed people are driving much less courteously and safely than five years ago.

The solutions they offered include more driver education, warnings or tickets from law enforcement officers and refresher driving courses for all adults similar to those required in some states for senior citizens.

No one can say just how much rude driving costs in terms of accidents and deaths, but some worry that it is the beginning of a vicious cycle of truly aggressive driving that can turn roadways into battle zones.

original here

 

October 9, 1997

'Road Rage' Hits I-494


An incident that must hover frighteningly in the back of any commuter's mind occurred this morning on Interstate 494 as it winds near South St. Paul, reports WCCO-Radio.

A 45-year-old commuter, changing lanes to allow a truck to enter the west-bound lane of the interstate at about 8 a.m., cut in front of a lumber truck during this morning's commute, apparently angering the 26-year-old truck driver from Minneapolis who allegedly swerved his rig toward the car.

The truck driver then motioned the commuter (pictured right with his back to the camera) to pull to the side of the road, which the man apparently did, and a fight ensued. The commuter, who didn't want to be identified, told WCCO-TV that he was punched repeatedly in the face and was hospitalized, requiring internal and external stitches. (RA) -- 25 seconds

A passerby who saw the action stopped and is credited with breaking up the fight and then following the driver while calling 911.

State troopers arrived and arrested the lumber truck about five miles from where the fight took place. Captain Kevin Kittridge of the State Patrol told WCCO-Radio that the truck driver is facing third-degree assault charges in the incident.

The television station reports the truck driver -- who received his license to drive the rig about one year ago -- has a string of driving violations on his record, including fleeing a police officer.

A national survey released Thursday reveals one-in-five admit to 'aggressive driving' and that women are more likely than men to tailgate.

Parker Hodges, Channel 4000 Staff Writer

 

January 12, 1998

Time Magazine
 

Society, Vol. 151 No. 1

Road Rage


Aggressive driving is America's car sickness du jour. But is there a cure for thinking everyone else on the road is an idiot?

Andrew Ferguson

It's a jungle out there. well, not really: it's worse than a jungle. It's a stretch of roadway anywhere in America, and in place of the ravenous tigers and stampeding rhinos and slithery anacondas are your friends and neighbors and co-workers, that nice lady from the church choir and the cheerful kid who bags your food at the local Winn Dixie--even Mom and Dad and Buddy and Sis. They're in a hurry. And you're in their way. So step on it! That light is not going to get any greener! Move it or park it! Tarzan had it easy. Tarzan didn't have to drive to work.


It may be morning in America--crime down, incomes up, inflation
nonexistent--but it's high noon on the country's streets and highways. This is road recklessness, auto anarchy, an epidemic of wanton carmanship. Almost everyone from anywhere has a story about it, as fresh as the memory of this morning's commute. And no wonder. Incidents of "road rage" were up 51% in the first half of the decade, according to a report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Some occurrences are grisly enough to make the headlines. Last year a high-speed racing duel on the George Washington Memorial Parkway outside Washington killed two innocent commuters, including a mother of two, traveling in the opposite direction.

More often the new ethos of road anarchy manifests itself in the mundane: the unsignaled lane change by the driver next to you, the guy who tailgates you if you go too slow, and the person ahead who brakes abruptly if you go too fast--each transgression accented by a flip of the bird or a blast of the horn. Sixty-four percent of respondents to a recent Coalition for Consumer Health and Safety poll say people are driving less courteously and more dangerously than they were five years ago.

And the enemy is us. Take a ride with "Anne," a 40-year-old mother of three who would rather we not use her real name, as she steers her 2 1/2-ton black Chevy Suburban out of her driveway on a leafy street in residential Washington. The clock on the dashboard reads 2:16. She has 14 minutes to make it to her daughter's game. Within a block of her house she has hit 37 m.p.h., taking stop signs as suggestions rather than law. She has a lot on her mind. "I'm not even thinking of other cars," Anne admits cheerfully as she lays on the horn. An oldster in an econo-box ahead of her has made the near fatal mistake of slowing at an intersection with no stop sign or traffic light. Anne swears and peels off around him.

Anne has a clean driving record with scarcely even a fender bender to her name. But when she takes to the highway, even her kids join the fun. "Make him move over!" they shout as she bears down on a 55-m.p.h. sluggard in the fast lane. She flashes her headlights. The kids cheer when the unlucky target gives in and moves aside. Back in town, Anne specializes in near misses. "Jeez, I almost hit that woman," she chirps, swinging the Suburban into the right lane to pass a car turning left at an intersection. She makes the game two minutes late. "I don't think I'm an aggressive driver," Anne says. "But there are a lot of bad drivers out there."

Too true, too true. But the example of Anne--prosperous, well-adjusted Anne, loving wife and mother--raises the overarching question of road anarchy. Residents of late 20th century America are arguably the luckiest human beings in history: the most technologically pampered, the richest, the freest things on two legs the world has ever seen. Then why do we drive like such jerks?

The most common answer: What do you mean we, Kemo Sabe? Of course, you don't drive like a jerk. Neither does Anne--just ask her. Very few drivers admit to being an obnoxious road warrior. There seem to be only three types of people on the road these days: the insane (those who drive faster than you), the moronic (those who drive slower than you) and...you. But this merely confuses the issue. Surely someone is doing all that speeding, tailgating, headlight flashing and abrupt lane changing, not to mention the bird flipping and horn blasting. There's enough in the phenomenon of road rage to keep a faculty-loungeful of social theorists thinking deeply for years--or at least until the grant money runs out.

That won't be any time soon. With millions of victims and hardly any confessed perpetrators, road recklessness has become the car-related sickness du jour, deposing (for the moment) drunk driving from its long-standing reign. Like drunk driving, the issue has energized America's vast machinery of social concern. The Federal Government is spending money on research, Congress has held hearings, law-enforcement authorities have held seminars and developed special enforcement programs, and psychologists are treating it as a genuine, stand-alone disorder. There are Websites devoted to the topic, including one--the Database of Unsafe Driving--that allows Web users to enter not only an account of their experience with an aggressive driver but also the "insane moron's" license-plate number, along with a proposed punishment. (Several of these--surprise!--are obscene.)

Aggressive driving, of course, has been around since the early decades of this century, from the moment when the average number of automobiles on any given roadway rose from 1 to 2. It is partly a matter of numbers. There are 17% more cars in America than there were 10 years ago, while the number of drivers is up 10%. More to the point: the number of miles driven has increased 35% since 1987, while only 1% more roads have been built.

But as the quantity of cars has risen, the nature of the problem has changed qualitatively as well. Maybe the congestion is making everyone cranky. Americans are famously attached to their cars; it's just the driving they can't stand. "Driving and habitual road rage have become virtually inseparable," says Leon James, a professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii who specializes in the phenomenon. In the most comprehensive national survey on driving behavior so far, a Michigan firm, EPIC-MRA, found that an astounding 80% of drivers are angry most or all of the time while driving. Simple traffic congestion is one cause of irritation, but these days just about anything can get the average driver to tap his horn. More than one-third of respondents to the Michigan survey said they get impatient at stoplights or when waiting for a parking space; an additional 25% can't stand waiting for passengers to get in the car. And 22% said they get mad when a multi-lane highway narrows.

So not only are roads more crowded than ever, but they are crowded with drivers whom science has now discovered to be extremely touchy. Modern life offers plenty of ready-made excuses for bad driving, and here as elsewhere time seems to be of the essence: there's just not enough of it. When police departments in the Washington area launched a program to crack down on aggressive driving last year, cops handed out some 60,000 tickets in 28 days for offenses ranging from tailgating to passing on the right. The most common excuse: "I'm late."

So many miles, so little time. For Ron Remer, 47, a soft-spoken salesman, offensive driving was simply part of the job. From his home in New Haven, Conn., he logged 30,000 miles a year selling promotional products. "People on the road were an impediment to my progress," he says. "If I was late, it would reflect badly on me. Maybe the customer wouldn't want the products, and I'd be out of a sale. Getting there was the only thing that was important. If I met you in person, I might invite you for coffee or something. But on the road, you were in my way."

Remer says he's reformed now, having had one of those little epiphanies that sometimes come to people who are pulled over by the state police. He was stopped one night on the narrow and unlighted Merritt Parkway in Connecticut after a high-speed race with another car, and soon thereafter he enrolled in a seminar for aggressive drivers. "I was lucky to recognize my problem and try to fix it," he says.

Other road warriors are unrepentant. Alan Carter, 43, a computer specialist from North Carolina and a self-described "aggressive driver," has his own vision of a perfect commute: one with no other cars in sight. "I don't want anyone in front of me. Any time. I think maybe this type of thinking has its roots in the minutiae of territorial rights and typical American individualism. But I don't really think about the deeper meanings. I just know that someone else is in my space or in the space I want."

Carter doesn't have to search for deeper meanings; that is a job for paid professionals, of whom, in America, there are many. Their theories range from the sociological to the psychological to the quasi political. "There is a greater diversity of road users now than at any other time in history," says Hawaii's James. "Therefore streets are not reserved for the optimum, skilled driver but accommodate a variety of driver groups with varying skill, acuity and emotional control"--jerks, in nontechnical lingo. And unlike in previous generations, the willingness to be a jerk on the road is no longer confined to a single sex.

Ed Sarpolus, the head researcher for the Michigan study of driving behavior, was struck by the gender breakdown of aggressive drivers: 53% of them are women. "There is a tremendous cultural shift taking place," he says. "Men still outnumber women in pure numbers, but women are not only increasing, they are not falling off as they get older. Women have fought to be equal in the workplace and in society, and now they're fighting to be equal behind the wheel. [Our] data are full of soccer moms."

This democratization of the highway has occurred simultaneously to a decline in traditional driver's education, once a near universal part of the curriculum in America's secondary schools--and a course beloved by generations of high schoolers, since the only way you could fail was by running over the instructor's cat. According to Allen Robinson, CEO of the American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association, 15 years ago, nearly 90% of all new drivers had taken an official driver's education course. With budget cuts chopping the course out of many public schools, that figure is down to 50%, perhaps as low as 30%.

And Robinson questions the use of the courses that are still in place. Having simplified the instruction of reading, writing and arithmetic, the American educational establishment may have finally managed to do the impossible: it has dumbed down even driver's ed. (What's next? Dodge ball?) Some states have backed off mandatory driver training altogether, and elsewhere most courses demand no more than six hours behind the wheel. In what was no doubt an exceptional case, last September a North Carolina driver's ed teacher allegedly told his trainee to chase a driver who had cut them off, then got out and punched the offending driver. The teacher (who later denied he had urged the student to step on the gas) was arrested. The student was not ticketed, and the assault charge against the teacher was dropped. "Our driving schools teach the mechanics of driving," says John Larson, a psychiatrist who lectures at Yale Medical School, "but they teach almost nothing about the psychology of drivers."

Driving is a curious combination of public and private acts. A car isolates a driver from the world even as it carries him through it. The sensation of personal power is intoxicating. Sealed in your little pod, you control the climate with the touch of a button, from Arctic tundra to equatorial tropic. The cabin is virtually soundproof. Your "pilot's chair" has more positions than a Barcalounger. You can't listen to that old Sammy Davis Jr. tape at home because your kids will think you're a dweeb, but in the car, the audience roars as you belt out I've Gotta Be Me. Coffee steams from the cup holder, a bag of Beer Nuts sits open at your side, and God knows you're safe. The safety belt is strapped snugly across your body, and if that fails, the air bag will save your life--if it doesn't decapitate you. Little bells and lights go off if you make a mistake: don't forget to buckle up! Change your oil, you sleepyhead! The illusions--of power, of anonymity, of self-containment--pile up. You are the master of your domain. Actually driving the car is the last thing you need to worry about. So you can pick your nose, break wind, fantasize to your heart's content. Who's to know?

The fantasies are shaped not only by the comforts of the cars but by their sheer tonnage as well. The organization man of the 1950s might have been satisfied with a workadaddy DeSoto; in the 1970s the aspiring hipster could relieve his mid-life crisis with an Italian sports car the size of a Shriner go-cart. Affluent Americans of the 1990s--so responsible at home, so productive in the workplace--want a car designed for war. With its four-wheel drive and tons of torque and booster-rocket horsepower, today's sports-utility vehicle would have come in handy at the Battle of the Bulge. On the road its driver faces no obstacle more menacing than a pothole, but he knows that if he wants, he can swing off the highway and climb a sand dune, ford a raging river, grind deep into a trackless wilderness. Of course, he never does. He has to drive the kids to soccer practice. But the unused capacity hums beneath the pedals at his feet and feeds the fantasy. Watch him roar past you on the road, and see the set of his jaw and the squint of his eye. This is not some corporate paper pusher at the wheel; this is no sensitive dad who does the laundry. This is Patton leading the Third Army. This is Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier. Disrupt his fantasy at your peril. "There is a real illusion of anonymity combined with potency because you have a machine you can command," says Jack Levin, a sociologist at Northeastern University's Program for the Study of Violence. "Top it off with the stress of work and people perhaps feeling insecure there, or with troubles at home, and it can make for a dangerous combination."

Road-rage experts have come up with various solutions to the anarchy of our streets and highways. We could legislate it (lower speed limits, build more roads to relieve congestion), adjudicate it (more highway cops, stiffer penalties), regulate it (more elaborate licensing procedures) or educate it away (mandatory driver's ed). Others suggest an option perhaps more typical of America circa 1998: therapize it.

"The road-rage habit can be unlearned," says James of the University of Hawaii, "but it takes more than conventional driver's ed." He advocates teaching "emotional intelligence" as part of any thorough driver training: how to "deal with hostility expressed by drivers" and "how to be accepting of diversity and how to accommodate it." He calls for a new driver's ed program from kindergarten on--to teach "a spirit of cooperation rather than competition"--and grass-roots organizations called Quality Driving Circles. These, he told a radio station, would be "small groups of people meeting regularly together to discuss their driving problems and help one another do driving-personality makeovers."

Will it work? A better question might be, Do we want it to? Road-rage therapists come perilously close to calling for a transformation of the national character--remaking our rough-and-tumble, highly individualistic country into a large-scale version of a college town where everyone recycles kitty litter, drinks latte, listens to Enya and eats whole grains. Is that really what we want? For all its dangers, road rage may simply be a corruption of those qualities that Americans have traditionally, and rightly, admired: tenacity, energy, competitiveness, hustle--something, in other words, to be contained and harnessed by etiquette and social censure rather than eradicated outright. Until then, alas, anyone braving the streets and highways of America would be well advised to employ a technique older than therapy: prayer.

--Reported by Sally B. Donnelly /Washington





Why It's Crazy Out There

Don't talk with your mouth full; say please and thank you; and for goodness sake, use a tissue. We are taught from the crib to avoid bad habits and cultivate good ones. But not on the road. There's nothing wrong with our highways that an Emily Post can't fix. Traffic-safety experts have noted the most common (and annoying) bad habits of bad drivers everywhere (i.e., everyone else):

Using the cell phone. O.K., Hotshot, we get the idea: you're important. Now can't the lbo wait till you get back to the office?

Eating in the car. Do you drive in your dining room?

Screaming, cursing, using obscene hand gestures. Yo. This is a highway, not a Marilyn Manson video.

Tailgating. Is that your hood ornament, or are you just glad to see me?

Cutting off other drivers. Cutting in line at the movies is rude; cutting in front of someone armed with a three-ton sport ute is suicide.

Driving too fast. The only thing more dangerous than driving too fast is...

Driving too slow.

Failing to yield to pedestrians. Yes, walkers are a menace. Yes, they should buy a car like everyone else. But they can still sue.

Speeding through an intersection. Two words: James Dean.

time-webmaster@pathfinder.com

March 20, 1998

From Colorado State University

Research on Road Rage:

Original can be found here
Contact: Jerry Deffenbacher,
Psychology department
(970) 491-6871 OR
Tom Milligan, (970) 491-6432
TMilligan@vines.colostate.edu

COLORADO STATE PSYCHOLOGY PROFESSOR BEGINS ROAD RAGE STUDY; COMPUTER SIMULATOR TRACKS DRIVING BEHAVIOR IN THE LABORATORY
FORT COLLINS--A Colorado State University psychology professor will replicate snarled metro Denver traffic and other scenarios to determine whether certain road conditions are likely to provoke road rage more than others.

In a study beginning this month, Professor Jerry Deffenbacher will use animated computer graphics and a mock car equipped with brakes, gas pedal and steering wheel to simulate traffic conditions that spawn road rage in some individuals.

The aim of the study is to gauge which traffic scenarios anger drivers to the point they drive aggressively, yell at other drivers or take risks that expose others to unsafe driving conditions. By knowing what factors are most likely to provoke road rage and what personality types are most conducive to expressing driving anger, Deffenbacher hopes to develop better coping strategies for the road.

"A lot of common sense goes out the window when people have car keys in hand," Deffenbacher said. "We hope this study points out the tendencies of driving anger in some of the most common day-to-day driving conditions. We're doing in the laboratory what we couldn't do safely on the road."

The estimated 90 men and women involved in the study will use the computer simulator to "drive" in three scenarios, each about 12 minutes long. The first scenario involves driving on a country road with no traffic and pleasant driving conditions. A second scenario simulates rush-hour traffic on the freeway with heavy congestion and slow speeds--similar to rush-hour traffic in downtown Denver. In the third setting, drivers will have to negotiate a narrow country road behind a slow moving vehicle and oncoming traffic that prevents passing.

Researchers also plan to develop a fourth scenario in which another vehicle cuts off the driver and a fifth that involves stop-and-go downtown traffic and includes other factors such as pedestrians, bicyclists and traffic lights.

The drivers will report on their feelings as they proceed through each scenario. Meanwhile, the computer will record the speed, number of collisions with other cars and other performance measures.

The data will be used to validate some of Deffenbacher's other studies on personality types most likely to express anger behind the wheel. Past studies showed that high-anger individuals became angry three times more often behind the wheel and were more than twice as likely to display risky and aggressive behavior on the road than low-anger individuals. People were categorized as high- or low-anger individuals after completing a short driving anger questionnaire.

Deffenbacher's past studies also revealed that high-anger individuals express anger on the road with more intensity than low-anger drivers, and that women express driving anger as frequently as men.

"When driving conditions aren't stressful, there is no difference between high-anger and low-anger individuals on the road," Deffenbacher said. "However, when high-anger people are provoked, it's a whole different story. They have a much shorter fuse."

Deffenbacher has several suggestions for drivers who either frequently get angry on the road or who are on the receiving end of road rage. The most fundamental advice is to accept that inappropriate, discourteous and unsafe events can happen to anyone on the road. That acceptance makes drivers more patient when driving conditions are difficult. Drivers also should avoid making eye contact, gestures, faces or yelling at another angry driver, since further provocation can spark intense, sometimes lethal anger in certain individuals. Instead, drivers should disengage from the situation by slowing down or allowing the problem driver to pass.

High-anger individuals also can avoid bouts of road rage by learning a few relaxation techniques. Deffenbacher suggests playing favorite music or audio book tapes as a way to lower anger and prevent negative interactions with other drivers. Drivers also can lower their anger by choosing not to use profanity--which adds fuel to the fire--and concentrating on positive thoughts.

Commuters who frequently get angry about road conditions should also look at their lifestyle for possible reasons--such as always being late. Starting out earlier may prevent an angry episode.

"How we think about other drivers and events on the road can make things go from bad to worse," Deffenbacher said. "A good deal of anger is in one's head, and that kind of behavior can be changed."

March 25, 1998

Aggressive drivers face road rage `test'
Education needed on stress, experts say

Bob Mitchell, Toronto Star Staff Reporter

They have them for alcoholics and drug users. Now speeders, tailgaters and dangerous lane changers are getting them.

Aggressive drivers caught by provincial Highway Rangers in Greater Toronto will be stopped and given ``roadside interventions'' in the latest effort to curb road rage.

Tickets will still be given to deserving offenders.

But yesterday, police also began using a questionnaire designed to help motorists see whether their anger is under control or if they're headed for a road rage situation.

In the time it takes for officers to chat with the offenders about their actions, using the volunteer test as a springboard, police hope the driver will have calmed down and learned something about their driving behaviour..

Ontario Police Superintendent Bill Currie said dispatchers at the Greater Toronto communications centre handle an average of 500 calls per week about road rage.

`We will continue to do our full enforcement, not just hand out the card and smile at the driver and let them go on their way. Our primary concern is if people have done something wrong, we'll take the appropriate action..' Bill Currie, Ontario Police Superintendent

``This is astounding,'' said Currie, regional commander for the GTA. ``It's been going up constantly. We will continue to do our full enforcement, not just hand out the card and smile at the driver and let them go on their way. Our primary concern is if people have done something wrong, we'll take the appropriate action.

``But enforcement alone isn't enough. An equal balance of education and public awareness is also required.''

The OPP is the first force in North America to introduce the program. After completing the 10-question card, motorists can rate their road rage score. The card also contains tips on how to reduce stress while driving and how to avoid road rage incidents.

``We'll be counselling them during this roadside intervention,'' said Sergeant Peggy Gamble, head of the Highway Rangers GTA team. ``The cards, which are anonymous, will be collected and data will be analyzed.''

Plans are under way to use an interactive computer version of the card, known as ``Gauge Your Rage'' at public displays and presentations.

Gamble said a recent test of drivers at an unnamed Toronto-area company showed that 15 per cent of the 68 people tested had tendencies that indicate they're driving would ``threaten lives'' unless their stress is reduced.

Another 31 per cent fell into the caution category while only 2 or 3 per cent of the 68 drivers tested had their driving totally under control and 51 per cent were in control most of the time.

``We need to make road rage socially unacceptable and to make people aware of their own road rage and what they can do to reduce their stress and anger while driving,'' said Dr. Lorne Korman of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, formerly Addiction Research Foundation. ``Anger and driving, like drinking and driving, is a potentially deadly mix.''

found it here

March 25, 1998

SafeAuto - Road Rage

Aggressive drivers are behind a large number of accidents on the highway. They pull in front of others, follow too close to the vehicle ahead, yell obscenities, shake their hands, show obscene hand gestures, and are simply provocative and dangerous. They are rude and usually feel that they are justified in the way that they are driving or intimidating others, even if just for the moment. Under some conditions, other drivers consciously or unconsciously join in as they try to protect their own driving space or edge in on somebody else's as they try to move ahead or laterally a little quicker than the other drivers.

Besides putting additional police on the road to show that somebody really is watching, what can be done to protect drivers in general from drivers that are aggressive?

The first place drivers should look is at themselves. The individual driver needs to be aware of his or her own driving practices and especially for those times when stress levels may rise. The individual driver needs to realize that traffic in general or certain other drivers are not necessarily out to ruin his or her day.

Drivers will differ in how they classify aggressive driving. Drivers who travel in heavy urban traffic with many on and off ramps will be probably more tolerant of certain behavior than drivers who are used to more open roads with less frequent side accesses. However, each driver must respond to each individual vehicle that enters or may enter the immediate surrounding of the driven vehicle. Whether the other driver is classified as aggressive or not, the aggressive driver does not really care how he or she is graded since he or she already figures that they are correct and in control of the situation. Drivers are thrown to the fate of the aggressive driver.

How can SafeAuto work to help drivers know when they are driving aggressively or angry?

SafeAuto works by monitoring driver foot positions and activities. These are then correlated with patterns that may be indicative of driver anger and road rage, as well as other patterns such as alertness.

SafeAuto can alert the driver when the system determines that driver foot activity that may be indicative of angry driving is taking place. Foot activities that would fall into this monitoring would include continued quick movements of the foot over to a pedal area such as when a driver is arguing with a passenger during an argument or when aggravated with drivers of other vehicles. Quick depression of the pedals can also be associated with anger when drivers use forward control of the vehicle as a means to show that they have control of their vehicle and therefore traffic in general.

 

April 2, 1998

BBC News Online

UK 'Road rage' driver jailed for 12 years

'Road rage' driver jailed for 12 years An amateur rally driver who described himself as the "best driver ever" has been found guilty of killing a young couple in a road rage incident. Jason Humble, 33, from Cove, near Farnborough, Hampshire, was found guilty of the manslaughter of Toby Exley and Karen Martin, who died after their car was shunted into the path of an oncoming vehicle in October last year.

Humble was found guilty at the Old Bailey by a majority verdict of 10-2.

The Recorder of London, Sir Lawrence Verney, sentenced him to 12 years in jail on each manslaughter charge to run concurrently.

Mr Exley, 33, and his 20-year-old girlfriend died instantly when their Ford Fiesta was forced across the central reservation of the A316 at Hanwell, south west London.

Humble, who is unemployed, denied manslaughter but admitted being the driver of a Vauxhall Senator former police car which was seen by witnesses bumping the Fiesta three times.

He had a string of convictions for car "ringing" and other motoring offences and had been convicted of a road rage offence 13 years ago.

The judge said the offence was aggravated because Humble had immediately driven off and did his best to conceal the car as well as his role in the deaths.

He said: "Of course no sentence imposed by this court can afford any comfort to those families you have deprived of their loved ones."

Humble was also disqualified from driving for 10 years and ordered to take an extended driving test before he can go back on the road.

The relatives of the dead couple were in court to see him sentenced.

Humble showed no emotion as he was led to the cells. He will not be considered for parole until he has served at least half of the 12-year term.

David Perry, prosecuting, told the trial: "Toby Exley and Karen Martin died because the defendant became impatient with them.

"He used his skill as a driver - if skill it was - to nudge their car out of the way."

Humble, who had 15 years' experience as a rally driver, said he thought the other driver was trying to "wind him up" by not letting him past.

He had told police: "I just became frustrated with him - why wouldn't he let me past ?"

Humble denied ramming the car and said: "I sat behind him at a safe distance and flashed him, but he ignored me."

Keith Collier, a 50-year-old car dealer from Farnborough, has pleaded guilty to perversing the course of justice by claiming the Vauxhall Senator had been stolen shortly before the accident.

He will be sentenced at the Old Bailey on Friday.

original here


June 30, 1999

N.Y. Prosecutor Faces Murder Charge

GOSHEN, N.Y. (AP) -- An assistant district attorney was charged Wednesday with murder for allegedly running down a roller skater, then driving a half-mile with the body on the hood of his car.

Paul Harnisch faces second-degree murder charges in the death Saturday of Edwin Quirk, 40, who was skating with his wife on a path that is supposed to be free when he was killed.

Prosecutors said Harnisch, 39, drove his car onto a bike path in Chester, hit Quirk and injured his wife, then continued for about a half mile with Quirk on the hood. He allegedly stopped his car, stole a parked car and drove a short distance before he was stopped by police.

Earlier Saturday, Harnisch's family called police to say Harnisch was manic depressive and had not been taking his medication, the Middletown Times Herald Record reported.

Harnisch spent 10 years in the office of the Manhattan district attorney before he was hired in Orange County in 1997.

Original here


Road Rage Map of Top Cities available here
 

from ABCnews.com

Metropolitan areas with lower aggressive driving rates tend to be older, more pedestrian-friendly communities with better developed train and bus systems, the study said.

“Maybe the driv ers are rude in New York, but no one is getting killed,” Kienitz said. “Rudeness isn’t the problem. The problem is risky behavior at high speed.”

The report used 1996 federal data, the most recent available, to compare aggressive driving death rates in metropolitan areas and all 50 states.

Researchers said they excluded those rare but highly publicized incidents in which drivers murder each other with guns.

Instead the federal government definition of aggressive driving was used that includes speeding, tailgating, lane weaving and running stop signs and red lights. That definition was further narrowed by excluding drug- and alcohol-related crashes.

Using these parameters, aggressive driving was a factor in about 56 percent of all fatal crashes.

California Community Tops List
Topping the list of fatalities resulting from aggressive driving was Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif., with a rate of 13.4 deaths per 100,000 residents, according to the study.

Rounding out the top five most-dangerous metropolitan areas were: Tampa, Fla., with 9.5 deaths per 100,000 people; Phoenix (9.2); Orlando, Fla., (8.1); and Miami (8.1). Boston and New York were the safest in terms of deaths caused by aggressive driving, with a rate of less than three fatalities per 100,000 people, the study found.

States with the highest rates of deaths caused by aggressive drivers were: South Carolina with 15.1 deaths per 100,000 people; Wyoming (13.9); Alabama (13.7); Kansas (13.7); and Oklahoma (13.6). The more densely populated northeastern states of Rhode Island (3.1), Massachusetts (3.3) and New York (3.7) had the least fatalities, the study found.

“We simply don’t have to accept steadily worsening congestion, steadily longer traffic jams and inevitable part of America’s way of life,” Gore told a group of traffic reporters from across the country during a meeting at the White House.

Gore said the government would develop a nationwide telephone number that drivers could call for up-to-date traffic reports. The number would be either 211 or 511.

He also highlighted legislation that was passed in 1998 and is now being implemented, that allows employers to offer cash and tax incentives of up to $240 per month to subsidize costs for commuting by public transportation or car pools. “If it makes good economic sense, folks are going to do it,” Gore said.


Road rage suspect's house burns down

KATHRYN MARCHOCKI, Union Leader Staff LONDONDERRY

Kolhonen said Friday he got threatening calls for two days, the latest just hours before he found his car engulfed in flames early that morning. "This just proves even more that I wasn't the bad guy," he said, referring to last Sunday's alleged road rage incident. Kolhonen said he ran into the back of Maria Fernandez's Volkswagen in North Andover after she deliberately jammed on the brakes. But witnesses, including an off-duty police officer, said Kolhonen tried to use his vehicle to ram Fernandez's car off the road after he became enraged because he was cut off in traffic. Fernandez, of Danville, told police Kolhonen's vehicle pushed her car along the road at 55 mph even though she was standing on the brakes. The off-duty auxiliary Lawrence police officer said Kolhonen was slamming into the VW and trying to force it off the road. Fernandez pulled into a parking lot at one point during the incident and Kolhonen pulled alongside.

A third car carrying David Acheson, 27, of Plaistow, and Joseph Nici, 21, of Danville, joined them. Kolhonen said one of the men leaned into his car and punched him in the face several times while another threatened him with a small knife. The two men are charged with assault. Fernandez and her passengers were not charged. Kolhonen pled innocent to five counts of assault to murder and related charges in connection with the road rage incident. He is free on bail. Meanwhile, Kolhonen's neighbors are on edge.

Original here

 

Red Geo and Red Mustang Racing Each Other

STERLING - State police are commending the quick action of an Interstate 190 motorist for reporting a “road rage” incident by cellular phone Friday, enabling police to stop the drivers allegedly involved. The incident began on the highway and spilled over onto Sterling and West Boylston roads, according to Lt. Paul C. Mahoney. At one point, one of the drivers allegedly tried to run the other down. Joseph Miller, 17, of Leominster was arraigned in Clinton District Court Monday on two charges of assault with a dangerous weapon (a knife and a car) and various motor vehicle violations, according to Mahoney. Miller's case was continued until March 16, a court clerk said.

The other driver, Matthew Casassa, 21, of Sterling, will be summonsed to Clinton District Court on a charge of driving so as to endanger and other motor vehicle violations, Mahoney said. Michael Beaudoin, 20, of Leominster, a passenger in Casassa's car, will be summonsed on a charge of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (a screwdriver).

Police were advised by the telephoning motorist that a red Geo and a red Mustang were racing after each other on the highway, Mahoney said. The motorist was able to describe the incident and give police information about the direction the two vehicles went.

According to the report, Miller, who was driving the Geo, made an obscene gesture toward Casassa in the Mustang. Casassa then “responded by riding on the rear bumper of the first individual at speeds in excess of 80 mph,” a state police press release said. Miller then waved a large knife out of his car window. The knife was later recovered in the car by police, Mahoney said.

After the vehicles left the highway, the incident escalated, according to Mahoney. “At some point, these two vehicles stopped and both drivers and the passenger got out,” he said. That was on North Row Road in Sterling.

“It's alleged the operator of the Geo tried to run down the driver of the Mustang, and the passenger of the Mustang attempted to assault the driver of the Geo (with a) screwdriver,” Mahoney said.

A short time later, state and Sterling police arrested Miller on Route 12 in Sterling. State police stopped Casassa on Route 12 in West Boylston.

Mahoney said road rage incidents seem to be increasingly common on area highways. “With cellular technology, we're certainly getting a lot more calls about it,” he said. “I don't know if there's more reporting or if it's a phenomenon that's increasing. I think it's probably something that's happening more and more.”

Original here



Laser-sighted handgun flashed in 'road rage' incident
 

Suspect in incident remains in jail on $4,000 bond.

Matt Sebastian Camera Staff Writer

Boulder County sheriff's deputies arrested a Northglenn man Friday after he reportedly confessed to brandishing a laser-sighted handgun at another motorist on U.S. 36 near Davidson Mesa.

Jeffrey Montford, 35, is scheduled to be charged Tuesday in Boulder County Court with felony menacing in connection with this week's incident.

"I talked to him yesterday and he admitted to waving the gun," Deputy Rick Ferguson said Friday. "He claims he didn't point it at anyone."

The victim, a Thornton man, told sheriff's investigators he was driving to Boulder at about 6:50 a.m. Wednesday when Montford passed him on the turnpike and "raised his hand and began tapping on his watch," according to a police report.

Montford appeared to be in a hurry, the victim said. Both the victim and his passenger began "mocking" Montford, mimicking his watch-tapping.

A short time later, between Davidson Mesa and the Foothills offramp, Montford's car appeared alongside the victim's vehicle.

Montford allegedly pulled out a Beretta 9 mm handgun, with a laser-sighted scope, and pointed it at the other driver.

The victim's passenger told police he saw the laser from the scope "sweep across the car" and appear on the driver's forehead.

"It seems that all these really minor traffic matters blow up into these things with guns," Ferguson said. "It's really crazy."

The deputy added, though, that the victim and his passenger "kind of provoked this thing. The guy was obviously in a hurry and they were making fun of him."

Original here


July 2, 1999

2 Girls Charged In Road Rage Attack

DALE CITY, Va. (AP) -- A 25-year-old woman who authorities say had her head smashed repeatedly into the street during a traffic argument with two teen-age girls has died from her injuries.

Natalie Davis died Thursday, two days after police say she was attacked while driving to a church service with her children, ages 2 and 4, and four other relatives.

Prosecutor Paul Ebert said Teresa Dixon, 18, and a 16-year-old girl will now face murder charges. Both suspects were held without bond and a preliminary hearing was set for Aug. 10.

Ms. Dixon had been charged with aggravated malicious wounding. Information about the 16-year-old was withheld due to her age, but Ebert said he will seek to try her as an adult.

Police say Ms. Davis and her family encountered a car blocking the entrance to the cul-de-sac where they lived Tuesday night. Several girls had gathered around the car to talk.

Ms. Davis asked the teens to move the car, but the driver of her car managed to maneuver around it. Two teens followed the family in another car, police Sgt. Kim Chinn said.

Words were exchanged, and after a short distance, Ms. Davis and the 16-year-old girl left their cars to argue, Ms. Chinn said. The teen eventually grabbed Ms. Davis by her hair and pounded her head into the pavement, she said.

Dixon allegedly joined in, stomping on Ms. Davis' head, police said. One of Ms. Davis' relatives flagged down a police officer.

By Associated Press Online


August 10, 1999

Calls to 911 reveal road rage terror:
New details emerge as girl's family prays for miracle

By Blair Anthony Robertson Bee
The Sacramento Bee

(...).

The Andersons made two 911 calls beginning at 12:32 a.m., the first after a motorist began driving erratically and later tried to run the family off the road.

The two calls provide new, vivid details about how the ordeal escalated from a minor encounter on the city's streets to what authorities are calling a case of road rage that left a girl fighting for her life at UC Davis Medical Center. Her parents have said doctors already have prepared them for the possibility Kimberly will never walk again.

"We're very, very strong believers in God," an exhausted Peggy Anderson said in an interview Monday night. "I'm praying for a miraculous recovery. The doctors have said there's nothing left they can do for her spine. So it's in God's hands."

Kimberly was shot after the family retreated in their Kia Sportage to the parking lot of the Cafe Melange in Sacramento's Curtis Park near the Anderson's home. Police arrested Brad G. Odell, 33, on suspicion of attempted murder and he was held without bond. He is expected to be arraigned today.

Real Audio Listen to two of the 911 calls:

". . .a really bizarre drunk driver is doing wheelies on 24th Street. . ."

". . .somebody in a blue car just shot my daughter. . ."

(...)

Moments before the shooting early Saturday, the Andersons were already consumed with fear. They told the 911 dispatcher they were reluctant to drive home because the motorist, later identified by police as Odell, was following them and nearly caused them to crash near 24th Street and Broadway.

"A really bizarre drunk driver is doing wheelies on 24th Street," Peggy Anderson told the dispatcher when she placed the first emergency call.

Then she screamed, "Oh my God! Oh my God!"

(...)

The Andersons were on their way home from a movie when they encountered the erratic motorist. The 911 calls, made available to The Sacramento Bee on Monday, were answered by the California Highway Patrol, which handles emergency calls placed on cell phones even when inside the Sacramento police jurisdiction.

Sacramento police said Monday that the initial traffic encounter and subsequent shooting were unprovoked.

"This man tried to run the Andersons off the road and Mr. Anderson was being a good Samaritan in trying to report it. They were innocent victims," said Michele Quattrin, a Sacramento police spokeswoman.

At an emotional press conference Saturday, Orrin Anderson explained that he blew his horn when Odell first cut him off but otherwise did not try to engage the motorist. He said he followed the motorist to get his license plate number but begged off when the situation grew dangerous.

As the incident unfolded early Saturday, the Andersons placed the second 911 call. This time Peggy Anderson, the girl's stepmother, is screaming and her husband is racing to the emergency room. The dispatcher tries to get them to pull over and wait for an ambulance, but Peggy Anderson refuses.

She said Monday that as she was placing the second 911 call, her husband was heading east on Broadway at speeds close to 100 miles an hour, honking repeatedly to warn other motorists until he arrived at the medical center.

The following day, Kimberly was in good enough spirits to dictate a message of forgiveness to Odell. But on Monday, the girl was back on a respirator in critical condition and in tremendous pain, according to Peggy Anderson. Meanwhile, calls of support have poured in by the dozens, she said.

(...)

original here

 


August 25, 1999

'Road Rage' Victim Speaks Out
Police Think Suspect Might Be
A Doctor Traveling Overseas

MINNEAPOLIS, The elderly victim in a local "road rage" attack still doesn't know why the other driver lost it. For the first time, the woman spoke out today.

Virginia Hendrickson, 70, was behind the wheel of her car when the driver of a white BMW forced her to pull over on August 11. The man then allegedly hit her in the face.

The woman said she was preparing to enter southbound Highway 77 (Cedar Avenue) at Cliff Road in Eagan, Minn. when the man, who was driving a white BMW Z-3 Roadster convertible, got her to pull over about 8:15 a.m.

"She thought he was just trying to stop her from going onto the highway," said the patrol's Cpl. Paul Gorski. "She doesn't remember doing anything wrong."

The man apparently became angry, yelled at her and hit her, breaking her glasses, Gorski said. She sustained a bruise. He sped off when someone else intervened, according to WCCO-TV.

(...)

If a suspect is caught, he could face felony assault charges.

original here

See follow up story in next box.

 

September 1, 1999

Road Rage Killer Gets Death
He Wrote About How Good It Felt to Kill

DALLAS (AP) -- A former financial analyst was sentenced to death after testifying that road rage led him to shoot and kill two truck drivers and injure a third man he suspected of being a truck driver.

Douglas Alan Feldman confessed in testimony and in letters to opening fire on the drivers, Robert Stephen Everett and Nicolas A. Velasquez, in August 1998.

Jurors deliberated less than 90 minutes Tuesday before sentencing Feldman, 41, to lethal injection.

Everett, 36, was killed on U.S. 75 north of Dallas. Feldman, who was riding a motorcycle, had contended that Everett almost ran him over. Velasquez, 62, was fatally shot 40 minutes later at a Dallas gasoline station.

'I found it quite pleasurable'

"I will tell you this: I found it quite pleasurable to kill those two men!" Feldman wrote a former girlfriend in December 1998, two months after his arrest.

"If you are an angry person and someone provokes you to violence ... it feels wonderful to cause their death and to watch their pain." The letter was read in court by a prosecutor.

(...)

Nothing the defense presented could stand the test of the evidence or Feldman's lack of remorse, jury foreman Steve Joachims said.

"In his written hand, he confessed and communicated that he would do it again, that he was actually happy about it," Joachims said. "Very sad."

A paramedic, Cynthia Manion, had testified that she and Velasquez prayed together and he spoke of his family as he was being taken to a hospital.

"He wanted them to know how much he loved them," she said. "He didn't understand why it had happened. ... This person had just come up and shot him." Velasquez died later in surgery.

Feldman also admitted shooting a third person, Antonio Vega, in September 1998 because he thought he was a truck driver. He survived.

 


September 2, 1999

'Road Rage' Doctor Pleads Guilty
Anesthesiologist Calls Incident 'Unthinkable'

APPLE VALLEY, Minn. -- A Twin Cities anesthesiologist pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon to misdemeanor assault charges in a highly publicized "road rage" incident.

Thomas Valente, 44, of Burnsville, Minn., did not appear in court Thursday. Instead, his attorney, Joe Friedberg, entered a guilty plea on his behalf to fifth-degree assault, WCCO-TV reports.

"He is distressed about it," Friedberg told WCCO-TV. "Probably not as distressed as the victim, but he intends to do whatever he can to make it right."

(...)

Valente admitted in his statement Thursday that his behavior was "unjustified" and "irrational," and he called the incident an "unthinkable act" and expressed regret that it happened.

Friedberg told the court that his client has entered counseling for his "anger management problem."

(...)

He faces a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $700 fine.

original here

 


November 12, 1999

Road Rage Puts Little Girl In Danger
Driver Jumps Out Of His Car In A Fit Of Road Rage
CLEVELAND

It probably happened to you -- a car cuts you off, or someone starts tailgating. Your heart pumps faster, your blood pressure rises, you start to get angry and then before you lose it you calm down.

(...)

Witness Ernest Martin says he watched the man in the van actually go off the road and cut back in and try to cut in front of Orahoske. Ernest Martin and his wife were traveling down I-71 too, right behind Orahoske's pick up and the van that was trying to run the man off the road.

"There was a point there where I felt fear for myself because I knew he wasn't going stop," Orahoske says.

The federal government defines road rage as any act intended to threaten, injure or kill another person. And Orahoske is convinced that's what the van driver intended to do when he pulled up next to his daughter's window.

(...)

original story here


November 16, 1999

'Oh My God, I Can't Believe I Shot Her'
In Alabama, Road Rage Engulfs 2 Women and Suburbia

By Alan Sipress
Washington Post Staff Writer

ALABASTER, Ala.—The two drivers had been battling for about four miles, jousting for position in the heavy rush-hour traffic streaming homeward from Birmingham along southbound Interstate 65. After one vehicle cut off the other one, they played a cat-and-mouse game, tailgating, lane-changing, slamming on brakes until they got off at the same exit.

Gena Foster, 34, was racing to pick up her daughter Francie, a 4-year-old with a mop of blond hair, at an after-school program for children with cerebral palsy. Shirley Henson, 40, was on her way home to her husband and dogs in a quiet cul de sac. But when the two cars came to a stop at a traffic light on the darkened exit ramp, Foster jumped out and started toward the immaculate black sport-utility vehicle idling behind her.

Inside the Toyota 4-Runner, Henson reached into the console next to the seat, where she kept a .38-caliber revolver and a cell phone. As Foster approached her door, Henson lowered the window about halfway and reached for the revolver. She fired a single shot, striking Foster in the left cheek. Foster crumpled to the pavement, blood gushing from her face, dying. She never made it to school.

Nor did Henson, a secretary at a prominent construction company, ever reach her home in one of the countless new subdivisions that have transformed Shelby County over the last decade from a hilly expanse of dairy farms and limestone quarries into one of the fastest-growing counties in the South. Instead, she spent the night in the county jail charged with murder. Out on $50,000 bond, she now awaits a Dec. 1 court hearing.

But while the Nov. 8 killing was unprecedented in the upper-middle-class community of Alabaster--consistently ranked as the safest place in Alabama--authorities say it shouldn't come as such a surprise. The county's explosive growth has turned a 20-mile commute to downtown Birmingham into a roughly hour-long ordeal of stop-and-go traffic, and guns are easily accessible. Law enforcement officials estimated that at least half of all motorists in this part of Alabama--and perhaps significantly more--keep firearms in their cars.

"I expect there'll be more situations such as this because of heavy traffic and the guns being so prevalent and people not knowing when to use them and how to use them," said Police Chief Larry Rollan. "Everybody's got a gun."

"Both people were probably stressed out," said John Ward, state president of the National Safety Council. "Birmingham is growing, especially Shelby County, and the roads haven't been able to keep up. There's a lot of tension and pressure when you have bumper-to-bumper traffic."

(...)

A study this year by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, a research and advocacy group based in Washington, reported that aggressive driving was more frequently associated with the stress of driving in sprawling suburbs than in older urban areas. The analysis found that Alabama ranked third in the country in the rate of death from aggressive driving. (This figure includes fatal crashes involving aggressive behavior though not roadside murders.)

Henson kept the revolver, for which she had a permit, stashed in her SUV for protection at the urging of her husband and brother, according to her lawyer, David Cromwell Johnson. Few here seem to fault her for keeping the .38 close at hand. "You take away someone's handgun only by prying it out of their icy dead grip," said Kevin Miller, host of an evening talk show on WERC radio in Birmingham. In fact, nearly half his callers support Henson for pulling the trigger.

"If I'm in my car and somebody comes running up to my car, I sure would shoot them. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it's gonna be," said a caller named Becky. Another caller, Bobby, who also carries a gun in his car, said: "You don't know the intent of the lady that was coming at her. . . . If I believe they're going to harm me, they're going to get shot."

(...)

As Foster headed out into the dusk toward I-65, Henson was leaving her job at Harbert Corp. atop a forested hilltop less than two miles away. They reached the interstate at nearly the same time and pulled out into heavy but moving traffic.

About two exits to the south, Foster jutted into the left lane, cutting in front of Henson and almost clipping the SUV, said Jim Hardy, who was driving behind them. Henson seemed to flash her headlights at Foster, he said. Foster hit her brakes. "They go back and forth. The 4-Runner pulls up on the bumper and then gets back," Hardy said. The contest continued for four miles, police said, as the traffic wound past silhouetted pine trees and shadowy hills.

Both vehicles left the interstate at the Alabaster exit, a straight ramp that slopes upward to a traffic light at an overpass. Henson moved into the right lane, preparing to turn toward Alabaster. Foster, who most evenings would move into the left lane and turn toward Columbiana, also pulled to the right, stopping her Pontiac in front of Henson, police and witnesses said.

Foster bolted from her car, leaving the door open. She headed back to the SUV, parked about seven feet behind. Her arms were out. She was yelling something no one could hear. "She was mad. Her eyes were wide open," Hardy said. As other cars pulled up to the traffic light, Foster came up to the partly open driver's window.

(...)

Foster dropped. Blood gushed from her face, painting a swath down the ramp nearly two feet wide. Henson dropped the revolver onto the passenger seat beside her briefcase. This time she reached for the cell phone and dialed 911. But she quickly became hysterical.

She remained frozen in her seat, weeping, said Lisa Adney, another motorist who helped her complete the call. Henson glanced at the body by the door and quickly looked away. "Oh my God, I shot her," she repeated over and over. "Oh my God, I can't believe I shot her. Oh my God, I can't believe she's dying."

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

 


September 9, 2000

Trial to begin in road-rage shooting death

NANCY WILSTACH News staff writer

Shirley Chapman Henson stands trial on a murder charge in Columbiana this week, but she claims she killed Gena Newell Foster in self-defense because she was afraid the angry woman was going to kill her.

The unusual nature of the case - a road-rage killing in which both the victim and the accused were women - has attracted national attention.

Mrs. Foster was shot to death on the Interstate 65 South off-ramp in Alabaster last November after the two women had jockeyed for position in rush-hour traffic, witnesses said.

(...)

After the aggressive driving between Valleydale Road and the Alabaster exit - a distance of about eight miles - accounts differ as to which woman drove onto the exit ramp first.

Shelby County District Attorney Robby Owens has said a jury may have to decide whether Mrs. Henson followed Mrs. Foster off the interstate or whether Mrs. Foster passed Mrs. Henson on the ramp. Both would have used that exit anyway under normal circumstances.

Pulled in front?

Johnson said Mrs. Foster pulled in front of Mrs. Henson, blocked traffic and got out screaming obscenities.

In an interview just after the killing, Johnson said Mrs. Henson "was afraid she was going to die. The woman spit in her face."

(...)

Mrs. Foster was shot in the face and was dead at the scene.

Johnson is awaiting a ruling from Shelby County Circuit Judge D. Al Crowson on whether he will be able to use Mrs. Foster's toxicology results in his opening statement. The flamboyant Johnson, known for his aggressive defense maneuvers, has said he wants to tell the jury that Mrs. Foster was "under the influence of narcotics."

Owens said the autopsy report shows Mrs. Foster had taken a Darvocet, for which she had a prescription, earlier in the day to counteract a migraine headache.

(...)

Mrs. Foster lived with her three children in a mobile home in Columbiana and worked as a solderer at CMS in Riverchase.

Mrs. Henson, free on $50,000 bond, lives in one of Alabaster's newer subdivisions and is an administrative assistant at Harbert Management Corp., also in Riverchase.

Johnson described his client as "a very nice 40-year-old lady who's got a son and is married and lives in Alabaster. She raises dogs, golden retrievers. She has never been in trouble in her life."

Owens has said the jury should examine the many moral questions surrounding the escalating frustrations of armed drivers on the county's increasingly congested highways.

Jury selection begins this morning and is expected to take most of two days.

© 2000 The Birmingham News. Used with permission.

original here

 


September 9, 2000

Jurors in `road rage' case asked about
driving habits, guns

By JAY REEVES The Associated Press

COLUMBIANA, Ala. (AP) -- Ninety-four potential jurors were asked about their driving habits and attitudes toward guns as a secretary went on trial for murder in the "road rage" shooting death of another female motorist.

Jury selection continued Tuesday in the trial of Shirley Henson, 40, who is accused of shooting Gena Foster, 34, at close range as Foster approached Henson's car on an Interstate 65 exit ramp last year.

The defense claims the shooting was in self-defense. Prosecutors contend Henson, still seated in her car, killed Foster with a single shot to the face after the two jockeyed for position for several miles on the busy interstate while driving home from work during rush hour last Nov. 8.

Foster had gotten out of her car at the top of the exit ramp and approached Henson's sport-utility vehicle, which was stopped directly behind Foster's car.

Defense attorneys say Henson was afraid and defending herself when she opened fire. The confrontation happened on a dark, crowded ramp, and Henson could not tell whether Foster had a weapon, they contend.

(...).

Gathered in a courtroom Tuesday, the prospective jurors were asked by prosecutor Randy Hillman if any of them had been on the receiving end of "really bad driving."

(...)

More than a dozen said yes to the question.

But only three answered yes when asked if they had ever done anything "that you're not proud of" as a driver.

Along with detailed personal information, would-be jurors were asked in a 16-page questionnaire Monday whether they carry a weapon and if they have ever been involved in a "road rage" incident.

Attorneys also tried to determine whether potential jurors had ever been involved in some of the driving tactics witnesses have described seeing in the moments leading up to the shooting.

"Do you consider yourself an aggressive driver or do you sometimes tailgate when you drive?" read one question.

"Do you believe that a person should NEVER use a gun to defend themselves under any circumstances?" read another.

(...)

 


October 4, 2000

Woman found guilty of manslaughter
in 'road rage' shooting death

COLUMBIANA, Alabama (AP) -- A woman was convicted of manslaughter rather than murder for shooting a motorist she had been tailgating during a road-rage confrontation.

Shirley Henson, 40, could receive anything from probation to 20 years in prison for the Nov. 8 shooting death of Gena Foster, a 34-year-old mother of three, on an interstate exit ramp.

Henson, who was convicted Tuesday, could have been sentenced to life in prison had the jury found her guilty of murder.

(...)

Henson said she shot Foster because she feared for her life. Prosecutors said Henson could have simply driven away if she was afraid.

(...)

Defense lawyer David Cromwell Johnson argued that Foster was entirely to blame. He portrayed the victim as a drug-addled wild woman who refused to let Henson pass and then tried to kill her on the ramp.

(...)

Foster's mother, Patricia Newell, said Henson has never expressed any remorse and should go to prison.

"In the United States we've got to do something about road rage. We've got to stop it," Newell said, her eyes reddened.

(...)

 


December 4, 2000

Woman sentenced to 13 years
for 'road rage' killing

COLUMBIANA, Alabama (AP) -- A woman was sentenced Monday to 13 years in prison for the "road rage" shooting death of another woman motorist on the exit road of a busy interstate.

Shelby County Circuit Judge Al Crowson denied probation as he sentenced 40-year-old Shirley Henson, who was convicted of manslaughter in the roadway killing of Gena Foster, a 34-year-old mother of three.

(...)

Henson showed no emotion when the judge read the sentence.

Crowson said everyone has "a little road rage" inside, and he knew his sentencing in this case would be closely watched. He said neither probation nor the maximum sentence of 20 years was appropriate.

Copyright 2000 The Associated Press

 


November 29, 1999

Man faces 7 charges in road-rage shooting

Detroit News staff

PONTIAC -- A Detroit man has been charged with assault with intent to murder and could face life in prison following what authorities said was a road rage incident that ended in gunfire. Jerrod Henry, 30, came inches from shooting a man to death during the Friday incident on Interstate 75 in Auburn Hills, according to state police. Henry was arraigned Sunday morning on seven charges including the assault count. He remained in the Oakland County Jail late Sunday on a $500,000 bond. State police said Henry, his wife and two children, ages 4 and 8, were driving north in the far left lane about 2 p.m. Friday and were followed by Henry's sister in another car. Both had to merge right when their lane ended. Henry was able to merge in front of a Chevrolet Suburban, but his sister had to brake and merge behind the Suburban, said Sgt. Dennis Sano. Henry then allegedly moved to the center lane beside the Suburban and fired two shots from a 9mm handgun. One of the shots missed the driver's head by inches.

 


February 10, 2000

Girl Gets 18 Years in Road-Rage Beating Death
Pummeled Young Mother in Traffic Dispute

MANASSAS, Va. (AP) -- A teenage girl who beat a young mother to death over a traffic dispute was sentenced today to 18 years in prison.

Kurebia Hampton, 17, read a statement apologizing to the family of Natalie Giles Davis, 24, who was killed in a scuffle that broke out last June in Dale City.

Hampton could have received up to 40 years in prison for her second-degree murder conviction.

Victim was slammed, kicked

Davis and her family were headed to church when they encountered a car blocking the road out of their cul-de-sac. Davis exchanged harsh words with the teenagers, who jumped in another car and blocked the one Davis was riding in.

After Davis got out of her car, a fight broke out, and her head was slammed to the ground and kicked. She died several days later.

Teresa Dixon, 19, was convicted of manslaughter for stomping on Davis' head as she lay on the sidewalk. She was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison last month.

 


March 8, 2000 (to July 2001 coverage of this case)

Reward grows to catch
road-rage driver who killed dog

SAN JOSE, California (CNN) -- The road-rage death of a little dog has generated what police say is an unprecedented outpouring of donations to a reward fund, to be offered to catch the man who threw the dog into traffic.

VIDEO CNN's Rusty Dornin talks with the dog's owner and to people offering the reward. QuickTime Play Real 28K 80K Windows Media 28K 80K

Since Leo, a curly-haired white 10-year-old Bichon Fris, was pulled from his owner's lap, tossed into three lanes of traffic, and crushed by a car last month in San Jose, California, police say they have been inundated with tips.

A Web site (http://interstice.com/leo/) set up on Leo's behalf had received more than 28,000 hits by Wednesday morning and the reward fund had grown to $40,000, an amount police say tops previous sums offered in child molestation and rape cases.

"That's shocking in itself," said Howard Johnson with the San Jose Police Department. "This is a lot bigger than the average case."

But Leo's owner, Sara McBurnett, says she still cannot believe what happened.

The Santa Monica Humane Society has been flooded with donations

Fender bender turns lethal McBurnett told police she was on her way to pick up her husband at San Jose International Airport on February 11 when a large black truck cut her off. She said she was unable to stop her station wagon and she hit the truck's rear bumper.

She said she rolled down her window as the man driving the truck came to her car, yelling at her. About that time, Leo jumped into her lap. McBurnett said the man reached in and grabbed Leo.

"Then he turned and threw him into the opposite oncoming lanes and I watched a car run right over him," she said.

Leo died later at a veterinary hospital.

"I was too shocked to function," McBurnett said. "Now I keeping having flashbacks. And remorse. Why did I open the window? Why did I go back to put the car in gear? I still cry at least once an hour."

Investigation focuses on Virginia San Jose police are investigating Leo's death as a case of animal cruelty. Based on information provided by McBurnett and other witnesses, they believe the suspect was driving a dark-colored Ford Explorer with Virginia license plates.

The Washington Post newspaper reported in Wednesday's edition that investigators have been organizing a photo line-up of suspects in the case using Virginia drivers' licenses.

The Post reports police have a partial license plate number from the suspect's vehicle.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The road rage dog killer is indicted

Burnett is in custody on 100-thousand dollars bail.

A Santa Clara grand jury has indicted a man for allegedly killing a dog in an alleged road rage case that drew national attention. Santa Clara police say 27-year-old Andrew Burnett allegedly reached into a woman's car at the San Jose airport and threw Sara McBurnett's dog "Leo" into traffic.

Burnett is in custody on 100-thousand dollars bail.

Prosecutors say if convicted Burnett could face a maximum of three years in prison. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday in Santa Clara.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It's been 14 months since Sara McBurnett's dog, Leo, was thrown into a busy lane of highway traffic by a disgruntled driver. Last Thursday, a Santa Clara County, Calif., grand jury indicted 27-year-old Andrew Burnett, who faces charges of animal abuse. Burnett, a former telephone repairman, has pleaded innocent to the dog's death. He faces up to three years in prison if convicted of killing, maiming or abusing an animal. He already is jailed on unrelated charges, and the trial is set to begin June 4.

Although she feels it is good that the case is headed to court, McBurnett still struggles with the memory of the horrible day she lost Leo. She went through the details of her veterinarian's attempt to save him on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America.

"I carried him in, they attempted CPR for about 10 minutes, but he was gone," said McBurnett. "It was the most devastating event in my life."

Flung Into Traffic

(...)

That's when he reached in, grabbed the dog, and flung him into the oncoming traffic lane, McBurnett said. She tried to get Leo back but couldn't reach him in time.

While McBurnett tried to save the animal's life, the driver of the SUV sped off, leaving the scene.

"I could see my dog, right within eight feet of me, get run over by a car right in front of me, and it ran right over the middle of his little body," she said.

(...)

Pet lovers all over the world expressed outraged and opened their wallets, raising nearly $120,000 to find the killer of the little fluffy white dog that became a symbol in the fight against animal abuse.

Web Site Fuels Investigation

The police took basic information, but McBurnett felt they had somewhat given up on the case. So she took matters into her own hands and had a friend create a Web site about the case. The site, www.interstice.com-leo, had a description of the incident and based on the sketchy information about the car, people could send in possible leads.

Many people sent in images of people who were possible suspects, and images of vehicles that fit the description. Several sent pictures of Burnett, who they said they had seen driving a black SUV in a wild manner, McBurnett said.

She also hired a private investigator to deal with the leads. His services were funded with a contribution from an animal rights organization, called Our Animal Wards.

A break in the case occurred when police began looking into the background of a 27-year-old San Jose resident who disappeared Dec. 8 while on the job as a Pacific Bell repairman. He was reported missing along with a company van and tools and equipment worth about $68,000.

Detectives looking into the missing persons case thought the employee fit the profile of the man sought in the road rage incident.

(...)

See video report:

Road Rage Punished In a disturbing case of road rage, a Santa Clara, Calif., man has been charged with a felony for pulling a dog from a car and throwing it into oncoming traffic, killing the dog.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Friday, April 13, 2001

Man indicted in road rage dog death

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- More than a year after a dog's death in a road rage incident sparked outrage among animal lovers, a man has been indicted in the case.

Andrew Burnett, 27, faces up to three years in prison if convicted on a charge of killing or abusing an animal. He was already jailed on unrelated charges.

The dog's owner, Sara McBurnett, said a truck driver became enraged when she got into a minor fender bender with him in February 2000.

(...)

The small white dog, a bichon frise that McBurnett called "my best friend for 10 years," died later at a veterinary hospital.

McBurnett was inundated with condolence messages from dog lovers around the country, and $110,000 in reward money was collected.

Burnett has been in jail in Santa Clara County on unrelated charges since December.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Monday June 4

Trial Begins in 'Road Rage' Killing of Calif. Dog

SAN JOSE, Calif. (Reuters) - Trial proceedings began on Monday for a former telephone repairman accused in the death of Leo, the Bichon Frise -- a fluffy white lap dog hurled into oncoming traffic in a bizarre road rage incident that horrified animal lovers around the world.

Andrew Burnett, 27, faces up to three years in prison if convicted of killing, maiming or abusing an animal. Prosecutors said initial hearings in the case began on Monday and jury selection was expected to commence on Tuesday.

Burnett was indicted by a grand jury in April, and subsequently pleaded not guilty to charges that he seized Leo from another motorist's stopped car on Feb. 11, 2000 and tossed him beneath the wheels of traffic headed for San Jose International Airport.

(...)

Despite the high-profile nature of the case, investigators said they had little to go on to identify a suspect beyond McBurnett's description of the vehicle and its driver as a thin white man in his 20s with a goatee.

In December, however, police received an anonymous email tip pointing toward Burnett, whom they were already investigating on charges that he allegedly disappeared with a van and some $68,000 worth of equipment while on a job as a telephone repairman.

Search warrants of the man's family home turned up a black sports utility vehicle with three separate sets of Virginia license plates, and Burnett was eventually charged in connection with Leo's death.

While the trial is now under way, officials at the Santa Clara Humane Society said they had still received no word from police on whether or not anyone would get the $120,000 reward for providing the crucial tip.

``We are still safeguarding the money,'' society spokeswoman Leslie Baikie said.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Friday June 08

Leo's owner testifies dog didn't bite

By Geoffrey Tomb

Mercury News Facing the man accused of killing her dog Leo in an act of road rage, a weeping Sara McBurnett told a Santa Clara County Superior Court jury Thursday that the 10-year-old bichon frisé never bit anyone and was never aggressive in his lifetime.

Her voice cracking and tears welling in her eyes, McBurnett sat 20 feet from Andrew Douglas Burnett, 27, the man charged with animal cruelty for throwing her dog into traffic after the two were involved in a minor fender bender.

Asked later if she made eye contact with the defendant while on the stand, McBurnett said this:

``He looked away every time.''


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tuesday June 19

Man Guilty in Road Rage Dog Death

By RON HARRIS, Associated Press Writer

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - A man was found guilty Tuesday of animal cruelty for tossing a small dog to its death on a busy highway.

The jury took less than an hour to convict Andrew Burnett of the felony cruelty count. Burnett, 27, could face up to three years in prison in the killing of Leo, a bichon frise, in the highly publicized road rage incident.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tuesday June 19

Verdict Soon in Dog Road Rage Trial

By RON HARRIS, Associated Press Writer

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - A jury took less than an hour Tuesday to decide the fate of a man charged with felony animal cruelty for tossing a small dog to its death on a busy highway.

The jury began discussing the case at 9 a.m. Tuesday and said it had concluded its deliberations shortly before 10 a.m. The court said the verdict would be read later in the morning.

Closing statements wrapped up Monday, without the defendant, Andrew Burnett, ever taking the stand in his own defense.

Burnett, 27, could face three years in prison if convicted of felony animal cruelty in the killing of Leo, a bichon frise owned by Sara McBurnett.

In closing statements, prosecutor Troy Benson asked the jury to hold Burnett criminally accountable.

``It's just an angry man who did a grossly negligent act by throwing this dog into traffic,'' Benson told the jury.

Burnett's attorney maintained that his client instinctively snatched the dog from the car after being bitten on the hand.

(...)

``What was he thinking when he reached into the car and grabbed that dog?'' Benson said in closing statements Monday.

Defense lawyer Marc Garcia urged the jury to closely consider the requirement of finding gross negligence. He said the case a decision to find his client guilty of a felony should not be taken lightly.

``This isn't a game. This is real lives, real people,'' Garcia said.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thursday June 21, 2001

Road Rage Dog Killer Says He 'Loves Animals'

By Andrew Quinn

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The California telephone repairman convicted of flinging a dog to its death in a notorious case of road rage says he ``loves animals'' and did not mean to hurl the beloved pet beneath the wheels of speeding traffic.

Andrew Burnett, in his first interview since he was convicted this week of killing ``Leo'' the bichon frise in a case that provoked an international outcry, told ABC's ``20/20'' news that he has been ``demonized'' by the public for what was essentially a tragic accident.

``It's not fair to demonize me in a way that I hate animals when that's not what I do,'' Burnett, 27, said in the interview to be broadcast Friday evening.

``I didn't kill Leo on purpose. It was an unfortunate accident. I'm really sorry that he died.''

(...)

``And as I jerked back, the dog came with my finger. I proceeded to um ... grab the dog so I could pull it off my finger ... And I guess my natural reaction was to drop the dog near my side,'' Burnett said.

McBurnett, in her testimony, said that Leo scrambled terrified through several lanes of heavy traffic before he was hit by an oncoming car.

``He killed my baby right in front of me,'' McBurnett said after the jury's guilty verdict. ``The public can ridicule me for considering Leo my child, I don't care.''

(...)

``I'm not the person that's been portrayed in the media...I love animals,'' he said.

But he said he grew nervous as public outrage grew, and decided not to come forward to confess his part in the incident. Despite the widespread publicity, Burnett was not identified as a suspect until some 11 months after Leo's death when police received an anonymous tip at a Web site devoted to the case.

``I felt that this wasn't a crime, and I thought that it would just blow over,'' he said. ``It seemed like it wasn't even about the accident. That there was a lot of anger that was ... for the person they were looking for. And I was nervous.''

(...)

Asked how he expected the public to believe his account of the incident following his conviction, Burnett said simply ''because that's what happened.''


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thursday June 21, 2001

Reward Money Split in Road Rage Case

By RON HARRIS, Associated Press writer

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - Five people will split a $115,000 reward for helping to convict a man who tossed a small dog into oncoming traffic in a fit of road rage.

(...)

John Mora, a San Jose man who testified that he saw the incident, will receive $75,000, the county's Humane Society announced Thursday. Four other people, all informants in the police investigation, will receive $10,000 each.

Burnett's attorney argued during the trial that his client acted instinctively because the dog bit him.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 13.

Burnett has been jailed since Jan. 4 on charges connected to the disappearance of his Pacific Bell repair van, which was filled with $68,000 worth of equipment.

Burnett fled from the scene after dropping the dog in traffic and his identity was unknown for months. The Humane Society office was inundated for months with tips from people throughout the San Francisco Bay area.

``This case has garnered more attention to animal cruelty than any other,'' executive director Christine Benninger said.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Friday July 13, 2001

'Road Rage' Dog Killer Gets Maximum Sentence

SAN JOSE, Calif. (Reuters) - A California man convicted of hurling a lap dog to its death in a notorious case of ``road rage'' was sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison on Friday after the judge rejected his last-minute apology for a crime which sparked an international outcry.

(...).

``I'm just very sorry,'' Burnett, handcuffed and clad in an orange jail jumpsuit, told the court. ``If there is anything I could ever say or do to bring back Leo, I would.''

(...)

Animal rights advocates, led by Leo's owner Sara McBurnett, said the judge was right to throw the book at Burnett for plucking the fluffy white dog out of her car after a minor traffic accident in February, 2000, and hurling it to its death in oncoming traffic.

``Andrew Burnett was enraged by a minor incident in traffic and took out his rage on Leo because he was the easiest target,'' McBurnett said before sentence was passed. ``His clear intent was to terrorize me in the fastest and severest way he could under the circumstances.''

McBurnett, dismissing Burnett's courtroom statement as ``an apology from a pathological liar,'' said he had never shown any sign of true remorse for Leo's death.

``He was told what to say to try to get as much sympathy from the court as possible. I'm sure none of it was genuine at all,'' McBurnett said, adding that she believed he deserved as much as ten years in prison.

(...)

The three-year sentence came despite a recommendation by the Santa Clara County Probation Department that Burnett be given probation rather than jail time for the crime.

The department investigator noted Burnett had no prior criminal record, and said he accepted responsibility -- if not guilt -- for Leo's death.

(...)

Burnett, a one-time telephone repairman, was convicted last month of felony animal cruelty for Leo's death, a bizarre case of road rage which engrossed the San Francisco Bay Area, known both for its population of animal lovers and its infuriating traffic.

Prosecutors in the case depicted Burnett as a hot-headed driver who exploded in rage after the accident and took his fury out on Leo. The defense team argued the evidence had failed to show Burnett acted with the necessary criminal intent to be convicted of felony animal cruelty.

(...)

He is due back in court Monday for the start of a second trial in which he is accused of stealing a truck and equipment from his former employer, Pacific Bell, in December 2000.

 


March 17 2000

Cops Seek Crash Vigilantes Caught on Tape
BOSTON (APBnews.com) -- Investigators plan to review a home video of residents attacking a 17-year-old motorist -- who allegedly struck and killed a 47-year-old woman -- to see if the neighbors should be charged with assault, police said today.

The driver already is facing charges that include vehicular homicide for allegedly hitting Denise Evans with his speeding car while she crossed the street in her Dorchester neighborhood about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, police said.

A neighbor shot the video, which shows "a number of people punching and kicking" Cory Cassino of South Boston as he sat in his car after Evans was hit and killed, police Officer Cliff Connolly said.

The video was given to local NBC outlet WHDH-Channel 7, which aired it Tuesday night, he said. Police will study the video to see if they can identify any of the attackers and decide if charges should be filed, Connolly said.

'People were angered'

Cassino would have to decide whether to press charges against his alleged assailants if police consider the attack a misdemeanor crime, Connolly said. Police cannot file misdemeanor charges unless they actually witness the crime.

But police could file charges if the video shows Cassino being kicked, because kicking is considered a felony assault in Massachusetts, Connolly said.

The neighbors apparently attacked Cassino because they believed he was going to drive away from the accident, he said.

"Witnesses speculated he was attempting to leave," Connolly said. "People were angered, and maybe in their eyes, they thought he was leaving."

Cited for misdemeanor homicide

Cassino's face was bruised, but the teen didn't require hospitalization, Connolly said.

The teenager was cited for speeding, driving to endanger, and misdemeanor vehicular homicide for allegedly driving 41 mph in a 35 mph zone, Connolly said. Cassino will appear in court later this month for a hearing on whether there is sufficient evidence to continue the case, the officer said.

Evans' relatives and neighbors were upset that Cassino was not arrested and jailed. Police, however, had no choice but to write him tickets and set him free, Connolly said.

"It's not our call," he said. "We just don't have the right under a misdemeanor charge to make an arrest for vehicular homicide. It has to be seen by the officer to make an arrest or, to upgrade it to a felony, it has to involve drugs or alcohol. It's the statute that determines everything."

'He's white and the victim was black'

Cassino, who could face a maximum of two years in jail on the misdemeanor vehicular homicide charge, is not suspected of being impaired when the accident occurred.

State legislators are attempting to revamp the vehicular homicide law to allow police to charge motorists with felonies for allegedly speeding or driving negligently, Connolly said. The maximum penalty for vehicular homicide would be 15 years in prison, he said.

Connolly also rejected a claim by Evans' daughter that race played a role in how police treated Cassino.

"She thought we didn't lock him up because he's white and the victim was black, but obviously, that's not the case," he said. "There have been many, many, many incidents where police respond to a call for a person killed by a car and there's nothing we can do. Until the law is changed, we have to act according to what the statute says."

By Richard Zitrin, an APBnews.com national correspondent

 



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