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AAA to aggressive drivers: Chill


Auto group launches campaign against road rage

February 18, 1998
Web posted at: 9:24 p.m. EST (0224 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Concerned about the increasing level of aggressive driving on America's roadways, officials of AAA Wednesday unveiled a new campaign to combat so-called "road rage."

"If we can convince millions of calm, mature motorists not to get sucked into encounters with angry drivers, many lives can be saved and injuries reduced," says David Willis, head of AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety.

A study commissioned last year by AAA found that aggressive driving -- tailgating, speeding, running red lights, giving other drivers dirty looks or obscene gestures -- has increased 51 percent over the last five years.

Experts blame the problem on crowded roads, long commutes and Americans' increasingly stressful lives.

The study found that between 1990 and 1996, there were at least 10,037 incidents of road rage that resulted in 218 deaths and 12,000 injuries. In Maryland, a toll-free number set up to report road rage incidents gets about 200 calls per day.

"People were holding me up. I was angry most of the time," says Carol Rodriguez of Westport, Connecticut, a reformed aggressive driver. "Every time I'd get behind somebody who was going the speed limit, I'd be angry at them for not going faster because I was in a hurry and they were in my way."

Gail Parker, a psychologist at the University of Michigan's business school, characterizes road rage thinking as "rigid, perfectionistic and punitive."

She says drivers have an attitude of "if you get in my way, I'm going to make you pay."

AAA plans radio public service announcements that will encourage drivers to obey not only the rules of the road but also the rules of common courtesy.

AAA is advising drivers to:

  • Avoid blocking passing lanes on the left-hand side of the road

  • Allow for extra driving time.

  • Listen to soothing music.

  • Avoid eye contact or obscene gesturing with other drivers.

"It takes two to tangle, and if you can convince one of those two people to back off and let the other guy behave badly but not take it personally, you can defuse many of these situations before they ever get started," Willis says.

Other solutions being considered include making driver education courses mandatory, starting those courses earlier and imposing stiffer penalties on people who use their cars as weapons.

Reporter Kathleen Koch contributed to this report.


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