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Experts say ignorance contributes to road rage

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Good driving is difficult when rude is the rule

August 26, 1997
Web posted at: 10:24 p.m. EDT (0224 GMT)

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.

CNN's Kathleen Koch reports
icon 2 min., 16 sec. VXtreme streaming video

But a third, they say, is a combination of ignorance and bad manners.

"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?"

Refresher courses for all adults?

Driving instructors say it's hard to preach proper driving when so few practice it.

"They'll be cutting our drivers off, and tailgating frequently," says Bob Weinberg, an instructor for Easy Method Driving School. "It's hard for us as instructors to make the point that this is not the way to drive. Just because other people are driving this way doesn't make it OK."

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.

 
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