Traffic Psychologist Confesses To Road Rage

Traffic Psychologist Confesses To Road RageBy Mary M. Ford

Imagine you are driving along and your passenger leans over and whispers in your ear, Grandma thinks you're a bad driver. A normal reaction might include denial and anger. But for Dr. Leon James those words mapped out his life's work. My struggle to become the kind of driver my wife and her Grandma can accept made me look at my driving problem.

Adapting a technique from social psychology, he started carrying a tape recorder in the car. He recorded himself, saying whatever came to mind. He was astounded when he listened to the tapes. There was so much hostility, impatience, and irrationality. I didn't know myself as a driver.

He then had hundreds of his university students carry tape recorders while driving. In listening to their tapes, he discovered that every driver has moments of rage behind the wheel.

"Road rage had become mainstream behavior, not just one exhibited by extreme people. We all have road rage," Dr. James stated.

Road rage is a habit acquired in childhood. Children are reared in a car culture that condones irate behavior as part of the normal wear and tear of driving, Dr. James explained. He cautioned that it will take an entire generation to overcome the road rage habit. Undaunted, he is working to find solutions to road rage. However, that will take more than conventional drivers education to overcome, he stated.

Dr. James predicted that safe driving would lower the cost of automobiles and save lives. Crashes and injuries cost the economy 150 billion dollars and 42,000 lives annually.

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