Saturday, November 27, 1999

Special to the Star-Bulletin
Leon James and Diane Nahl, both professors at the University
of Hawaii, teach drivers how to control their emotions
while on the road.

Isle drivers
not immune to
road rage

The Hawaii Traffic Safety Forum
will look at losing control behind
the wheel, and what to do about it

By Jaymes K. Song


Two weeks ago, three men in a Toyota Camry pulled alongside a 20-year-old woman on the H-1 Freeway near Pearl City and shot at her. On Oct. 22, a 57-year-old trucker was arrested for punching a man after a driving altercation in Kaimuki. On Oct. 19, a 19-year-old Waialua man was arrested for ramming a car driven by a 17-year-old boy at Leeward Community College because he was driving too slowly.

These recent incidents show that road rage is alive even in the Aloha State. It is a dangerous and deadly disease that has infected the American culture in the past 10 years.

A five-day conference starting Monday -- the Hawaii Traffic Safety Forum -- at the Hilton Hawaiian Village plans to address road rage and dozens of other traffic safety issues plaguing the island's roadways. Topics range from child-restraint seats to new designs to make safer roads.

Dr. Leon James, a University of Hawaii psychology professor and a nationally known expert on road rage, will introduce "TEE Cards" at the conference.

James proposes police officers hand out the TEE -- Traffic Enforcement Education -- cards to motorists who are stopped for aggressive driving violations such as speeding, passing dangerously or running a red light.


"When the police officer stops somebody to give them a ticket or warning, they've got the person's attention right there to give them a mini-lesson," said James, who is also known as Dr. Driving.

The card includes an aggressive-driving checklist of violations the officer observed, tips to prevent aggressive driving and road rage and a self-survey that measures a motorist's road-rage tendencies.

"It's learning how to deal with it in a better, more positive way than beating the traffic," James said. "By trying to gain some time, you're actually threatening other people."

Police Sgt. Robert Lung said the Honolulu Police Department is looking into handing out brochures with driving tips and ways to control road rage, but not specifically the TEE card.

"We see it on the road every day," Lung said. "We see cars traveling fast, darting in and out of traffic, making unsafe changes of lanes.

"They don't use signals. They're speeding, tailgating."

James and police acknowledged that most ticketed motorists probably will rip up any literature they receive, or not read it at all. But if it reaches just a few of them, it's worth it.

The TEE Cards are a good first step, but more aggressive driving courses are needed, James said.

Lung, who is on the conference's road rage panel with James, will speak on initiatives he will introduce to the state Legislature designed to curb aggressive driving.

He noted that there are no specific laws in Hawaii addressing aggressive driving.

"We can only give citations for individual violations," Lung said, adding there is nothing that informs police that the offender is a repeat-aggressive or dangerous driver. "It's a problem across the country."


The top 10 driving complaints in the nation are:

1. Cutting off, cutting in and slowing down.

2. Changing lanes in a reckless manner or, weaving through traffic.

3. Turning without signaling.

4. Cruising in the passing lane and not moving over.

5. Taking too long to turn or to get moving.

6. Yelling, insulting or gesturing at other drivers.

7. Rushing or being impatient all the time.

8. Tailgating and following too close.

9. Passing on the right shoulder when a car is turning left.

10. Running a red light or speeding up to a yellow light.

Source: Dr. Driving

Lung wants to make aggressive driving a new category that would fall under the "reckless driving" category. It would be considered a misdemeanor offense that could result in up to a $1,000 fine or up to one year in jail.

An aggressive-driving ticket would be cited when a motorist commits two or more aggressive driving violations -- such as speeding, tailgating, changing lanes unsafely -- within a certain distance, Lung said.

Traffic experts say driving habits and personalities have changed through the years, while the laws have not.

"More people are at risk today of losing their self-control," James said.

There are two main reasons for that, he said. There are more cars and congestion, which makes people feel more challenged, and people aren't taught how to deal with emotional challenges.

Plus there are several obstacles drivers deal with now which they never did before.

People are regularly using electronic navigation systems and cellular phones. Computers with E-mail also are being installed in many cars.

Lung, a 28-year veteran with HPD, said people also are taking their frustrations from work and home out on the road.

Aggressive driving is responsible for most of the nation's car accidents, James said.

There were 10,000 road-rage crashes from 1990 to 1996, claiming 218 lives and injuring 12,610 others, according to a study by the Automobile Association of America.

Next week's forum is sponsored by the state Department of Transportation and will include dozens of experts from Hawaii as well as the mainland.

The conference was created as a result of several transportation surveys on Oahu in the past year, and will focus on education, enforcement and engineering.

"We found there were areas where people need more education and communication," said Marilyn Kim, state DOT spokeswoman.

The state is spending about $100,000 to host the conference. The money came from the $800,000 the state received from a federal incentive grant for lowering the legal blood-alcohol level to 0.08.

You can get more information about TEE Cards
and road rage online at

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