A Review of

Dr. Leon James & Dr. Diane Nahl

Road Rage and Aggressive Driving (2000), Prometheus Books

by S. Arzadon ; May 1, 2003

(Spring 2003, Generation 18)

This instructions for this report can be accessed here


The Book's Overall Content



Road Rage vs. Aggressive Driving

(Chapter 1; Pg. 22-26)

It's not that I haven't heard these terms before, but I never did really think about their definition.  When I first entered this aggressive driving class, I had the thought that road rage and aggressive driving are sort of alike, both terms that I considered interchangeable.  Boy was I wrong!  There is a clear distinction between the two.

Road Rage: Anything that consists of an extreme state of anger that often precipitates aggressive behaviors, sometimes restricted to words and gestures, and sometimes assault and battery.  The types of road rage are: parking lot rage, sidewalk rage, surf rage, air rage, neighbor rage, shopping mall rage, workplace rage, keyboard rage, desk rage, etc. 

Aggressive Driving:  It refers to reckless behavior, such as running red lights or giving someone a "brake job", as well as speeding, tailgating, and lane hopping.

I think this topic is very interesting and very relevant.  Before knowing the correct definition of the two, I will still to this day deny that I'm an aggressive driver and sometimes partake in road rage.  I thought aggressive driver is when some one is just very aggressive on the road and road rage is one someone uses their cars as weapons or gets out of their car to assault someone due to an accident.

The important part of this topic is that we have to understand the reasons why so we can modify our behaviors.  The two symptoms of road rage is the feeling of rage accompanied by mental violence and the desire to punish and retaliate.  What can help?  Developing emotional literacy will be a start.  We need to start becoming aware and to monitor the sequence of their emotions and thoughts behind the wheel.  Also, we need to become more aware of the dangerous behavior we all exert because law cannot influence someone's conscience.


Classification of Road Rage & Types of Drivers

(Chapter 4; Pg. 84-103)

I think by knowing the classification of road rage and the types of drivers that are out there, it can benefit us in that we can sort of identify ourselves with it.  That way we can see that we all somewhat contribute to this whole road rage issue.

3 Classification of Road Rage

Passive-aggressive road rage: This a reactionary protest against feeling thwarted, coerced, mistreated, or repeatedly wronged, and characterized by feelings of rancor and resentment against other drivers.  This can be dangerous because the person you are blocking is looking for a fight, wants to teach someone a lesson, or simply enjoy retaliating.

Verbal road rage: This is the habit of constantly complaining about the traffic, keeping up a stream of mental or unspoken attacks against drivers, passengers, law enforcement officials, road workers, etc.  This is the most common form of road rage.

Epic road rage: This is the habit of fantasizing comic book roles and extreme punitive measures against another driver, such as chasing ramming, shooting, and killing, sometimes to the point of acting on.  These people are confrontational and combative, harsh and defiant, with righteous fury, seeking revenge and punishment.

Types of Drivers

Automotive Vigilante: These people are automotive bully aggresses against other motorist, chose at random or for some specific reason with a constant stream of verbal abuse, offensive gestures, and threatening maneuvers with the vehicle, sometimes going to the extreme of physical violence.

Rushing Maniac: These people are anxious on the road, berating ourselves of being slow, being late, or behind others.  They also have the habit of lane hopping and create impulsive driving that is unpredictable and difficult for other drivers to read.

Aggressive Competitor: These people are competitors, always in a type of competition, and seen good in America but lethal on the road.  They always need to be in the lead and feel a sense of loss or anxiety when someone passes.

Scofflaw: These people have the tendency to automatically disregard certain traffic laws, regulations, and signs.  They act as if they have the right to break the law anytime we choose.

I think this topic is important because it can help us identify that what we are doing on the road is dangerous.  I myself admit to fall under the verbal road rage.  I actually found myself yelling throughout my trip to school a while back and couldn't believe how I was acting.  I was actually sort of embarrassed because my ex-boyfriend is the one that actually pointed it out.  Ever since then I watch what I say but I still tended to yell under my breath.


3 Levels of Emotional Intelligence

(Chapter 5; Pg. 117-120)

Emotional Intelligence Level

State of Feelings

Sequence of Thoughts

Types of Actions
1 Oppositional Irrational selfish, reckless, impulsive, hostile, expresses criticism, feels insulted, & insecure
2 Defensive Logical suspicious, wary, restrained, competitive, expresses worries, & complaints
3 Supportive Prosocial helpful, friendly, gives others benefit of the doubt, expresses enjoyment & optimism

Level 1: Oppositional Driving: This is when you have a hostile driving style, irrational thought patterns, and have negative feelings.  It's also when you are unfit to handle road exchanges.

Level 2: Defensive Driving: This is when you concentrate on safety and encourages more logical thought patterns.  There's still negative thoughts and intolerance of the faults of the other drivers.  Also, Actions are more prudent and encourages a competitive environment on the road.

Level 3: Supportive Driving: This is when you focus on the enjoyment of driving and not bothered by driving hassles.  Also, there's mental orientation that enables drivers to manage using the positive approach and avoid the built in negativity of other driving styles.

I think this topic is good to know and learn about.  It can help track our growth in emotional fitness as we try identifying the different elements of your driving style and thinking.  To drive more intelligently results in positive feelings and the right thoughts coming together in a more successful action.


Three-Step Driver Self-Improvement Program

(Chapter 6; Pg. 133-144)

Because aggressive driving and road rage contribute to assault and battery, it's very important for us to identify our problematic tendencies and habits that either produce this emotional rage in one self or provoke it in others.  The way that we can begin to start changing our selves is going through a three-step program that was based on hundreds of drivers.  This program was designed to help better emotional fitness on the road.


This step is when you must acknowledge that every driver, including you, needs traffic emotions education.  In order to develop emotion intelligence, we need to acknowledge that we need a better understanding of the road rage syndrome.  So, you must acknowledge that what you're doing is not healthy and that you need to quit before you can change any single habit/behavior.

These habits/behaviors are acquired subconsciously and are maintain without awareness.  There's three areas of driving habits: habits of feeling a certain way when something happens (our traffic emotions and attitudes), habits of thinking a certain way about a certain event or person (our emotional intelligence as a driver), and habits of operating a vehicle (our automatic habits of alertness and vehicle manipulation).


This step is when you need to act as a witness to your actual behavior while driving.  At the same time, you're observing your thoughts, feelings, and actions to identify the type and degree of aggressive driving and road rage you practice.  You can witness overt acts that are visible (speed, following distance, crossing double lines) or small movements not so visible (mutterings about traffic and other drivers, amount of pressure applied to the brakes)

Some ways that you can keep track of self-witnessing are: thinking aloud into a tape recorder or video camera while you drive, putting a coin or bead in a cup for each instance, having a passenger count for you, dictating notes to a passenger, or making notes in your driving diary or log after arriving at the destination. 

Step 3: MODIFY

This step is when you modify the behaviors you want to change and to continue this process throughout your driving life.  Because modifying you driving personality is a big task, you can break it down into small steps, working on one target behavior at a time.  Some examples: leaving home 15 minutes earlier than usual, signal sooner before you lane change, repeat to yourself that pedestrians always have the right of way, even when they're jaywalking, or avoiding retaliation when another driver insults you.

I think this topic is very helpful, as far as identifying my problems.  I personally have already gone through the three steps, but I always get stuck on step 3.  I have a hard time modifying my behavior because my behavior is such an automatic response.  However, I have managed to change some of my habits like for instance, leaving home 45 minutes earlier (we do live in Hawaii) and if some cuts me off or wont let me in their lane, I don't automatically yell out loud to them (occasionally under my breath though).


Supportive Driver

(Chapter 8; Pg. 167-174)

Reaching the emotional intelligence level 3 in becoming a supportive driver is I think the best that a driver can accomplish.  Defense driver and supportive drive seem like they can be on the same level but defensive drivers does not reduce intolerance and stereotyped perceptions.  Defensive drivers also may not realize their limited on their capacity to give emotionally intelligent explanations for driver behaviors that are outside of the norm.  So what's so great about supportive driving?

Supporting Driving: it's an accommodating style that emphasizes adjusting to the great diversity of highway users and steering clear of the road rage emotions.  Types of drivers on the road include local drivers, visitors, skilled drivers, less/inexperienced drivers, health, able-bodied drivers, and those who are challenged, ill, in pain, or emotionally upset.

So what things can we do to become a supportive driver? you must not speed up when you know someone is trying to pass you, just let them go.  Also, you must realize positive, not negative of other drivers.  If you have a positive feeling, it will liberate the anger and negative feelings you may feel towards other drivers.

I think this topic is important because we must acquire the skills of a supportive driver.  One of the main cause of aggressive driving or road rage is that we lack the sympathy and support of others.  It's always ME, ME, ME, and we must change that to WE.  We need to learn that not all of us drive a like, so we can't treat everyone alike.


Graduating Licensing Approach

(Chapter 9; Pg. 190-193)

It's scary to know that car crashes kill more young people ages 15-20 years old than any other cause.  Why? Other than young drivers not being experienced at handling emergencies, but they often engage in more risky behaviors.  Due to this, I think that more states should institute a graduated licensing approach that provides for several licensing phases: learners permit, intermediate or provisional license, and then full license.

This graduating licensing system supervises young, novice drivers in progressively more difficult motoring experiences at a controlled pace. Proponents believe the more teen drivers gain experience, the less likely they'll be involved in a crash.  They also hope that the more supervision they have, the young drivers can resist peer influence to take risks.

Some restrictions of this approach are: six months of crash-free, citation-free driving, zero tolerance for alcohol, no driving between midnight and 6:00am with authorization, color-coded provisional driver's licenses, and successful completion of a driver education course.

Parents can also take steps to help prevent or reduce the number of crashes involving teens.  These include: supervise teens' driving time, put a limit on the number of passengers allowed, establish curfews, insist that teens and passengers were safety belts, set limits on the areas and locales where teens are permitted to drive, etc.

I think this is a very good idea to have in Hawaii.  I think there are a lot more teen drivers, now a days, because they parents are spoiling them by buying them cars.  And these are not a rinky-dink car that are used only for getting to point A to point B.  These cars are brand new and sports-like cars that are mainly use for cruising.  Because teens have these cars, they feel that they are invincible and are becoming more reckless (speeding, racing, lane hopping). 


Aggressive-Driving Bills

(Chapter 10; Pg. 228-232)

It's interesting to know that common driving behaviors are now defined as crimes (misdemeanor or felony) and may serve jail time.  There's two categories of behavior in the official definition cover overt and covert behavior.  Overt behavior can be easily seen by a camera (improper lane change, tailgating, making obscene gestures) and covert behavior are unobservable mental state of a driver.

Law enforcement officers currently needs to be able to identify the aggressive driver's specific behaviors.  To help these officers, aggressive driving bills have been approved that provide enough detail to illustrate the specific language used to define the offenses.  However, there are some tricky psychological issues that may be involved in making  distinctions between aggressive driving infractions and non-aggressive violations. 

The state's comprehensive list of aggressive driving offenses includes:

(more listed on page 230)

I think it would be a good idea that people know this because it may help minimize problems on the road and avoid being ticketed.  This way too, I think people will rethink about what they do because they're choices may put them in jail or cause them to have a misdemeanor/felony on their record.



The topics that I have chosen to be major topics were: road rage vs. aggressive driving, classification of road rage and types of driver, three levels of emotional intelligence, three-step driver self-improvement program, supportive driver, and  aggressive-driving bill.  I think these topics are all related and sort of show a progression to each topic.

First, you must know the definition of road rage and aggressive driving and be able to distinguish them.  Then it's good to know the classification of road rage and what type of driver you are so you can slowly identify problems.  The levels of emotional intelligence is to help you realize what your weakness are and problematic behaviors that you must modify.  The 3-step driver self-improvement program is to help you go through the process of again identifying your problems and to slowly change them over time.  You must also acquire the skills of a supportive driver and knowing the aggressive-driving bill will help people reduce the aggressive driving to avoid consequences and make the roads safer.


I think that this particular book will be interesting for everyone if they actually took the time to read it.  But most people will be pushing it away because they feel that they don't necessarily have road rage and they don't want to hear about it.

The people who should read this book are the people who are caught with committing the violation.  I think the state should make it mandatory that drivers who participate in aggressive driving and road rage must read this book.  That way, hopefully they may change the way they're thinking and result in less chances for them to commit the act again.

What audience should this book be for?  Well, like I mentioned above, people who participate in aggressive driving and road rage.  Another good audience that this book should target are learning drivers, such as young drivers and people who are first learning to drive.  This book can help them in being prepared of what type of drivers are out there and if they were to run into one of them, they would know the correct way of handling the situation.

The Book's Importance

The most specific problems that this book discusses, as well as Dr. James mentioning in class, is how much money car crashes are costing us and how many lives it's taking.  Although cars are built better, our roads more safer, and medical staff becoming more faster and better, the annual death toll still remains at about 40,000 people per year and 6 million crash injuries per year (pg. 23).  And that's not all, the combined cost to society is $250 billion per year.

We can reduce these numbers if we just took the time in changing our aggressive driving.  There's always something that one person could change about their driving, which can make a difference.  It's amazing to know that car crashes are taking that many lives and I bet you, they are all accidents that could have been prevented.  Of course the only solution to changing these high numbers of deaths and cost is by simply changing the negative emotions we feel while driving and learning about emotional intelligence.

One of the book's topic that can be a concern today is young, teenage drivers.  Because of the high pregnancy rates now a days, there are a lot more teens then there were before who are driving.  According to the book, car crashes kill more young people 15-24 years old than any other causes and 14% of drivers involved in fatal crashes in 1996 were in that age group (pg. 190).  Now that's a scary thing and knowing that the percentage has probably increased by now.  Just looking at these past few years where car crashes ended in fatalities, most of them had at least one of the parties being a young driver in that age group.  

As far as the book goes in relation to psychology, this book can fit in different types of classes.  "Driving psychology" involves the entire personality of the driving individual.  Driving behavior involves three basic aspects of the personality: the affective (driver's feelings, emotions, attitudes, and values), cognitive (the driver's thoughts, judgment, and knowledge), and sensorimotor (the driver's vision, motor reactions, fatigue, stress, and pain).

So this book can fit in to "psychology of personality" because it's dealing with the personality, of course.  "Behavioral psychology" could be another because it deals with feelings, emotions, attitudes, and our sensorimotor.  And lastly, it could fit into "cognitive psychology" because we can see why we have these certain thoughts, judgments, and knowledge about driving.

The Book's Structure

This book contains few exercises and tests, but some of them may be bias.  The exercise that I did like and actually tried out was the exercise: assessing myself as a driver (pg. 134-135).  This is where you as a driver are supposed to list down you're best and worst driving traits according to yourself.  Then you have another person that has driven with you write down your best and worst driving traits, and you as the driver cannot reinterpret their views.  After that's done, you will compare the two and see where both your views differ.

When I took this test, I refused to be the one to be critiqued on my driving, so I made my husband be the driver and I was the passenger.  The main thing that I learned from this was most of the things that I was stating that was his worst driving trait, I did as well.  It then dawned on me that I had an ego defense mechanism happening, projection (Freud).  I was projecting my worst quality traits onto my husband.  Boy did I feel bad.  From then on, I always watched what would say and if I did want to say something, I would keep it to my self.

The exercise that I think was bias was the checklist: you road rage tendency (pg. 40-41).  There's 20 statements and you are supposed circle yes or no if they apply to you.  The bias part of this is that some of the statements had answers that were occasionally yes or no to me, but you had to circle one showing that you always do this or you never do this.  My score on this exercise was 9 yeses.  Scores between 5 and 10 indicate that I have moderate road rage habits (I can agree with that.)

There were many tables and diagrams in this book that really help in seeing the whole picture, rather than listing things in paragraph format.  The tables and diagrams lets you see a quick snap shot of the subject and it's easier to take the information in.  The bibliography notes were convenient to be put the end of each chapter rather than putting them all at the end, in one big lump some and the index were detailed enough to know if that's what you're looking for.

I think the chapter titles really fit the over all chapter.  I didn't really come across a chapter that I felt the the title didn't fully represent.  Lastly, the general layout of the book was good.  The hanging indentation help me know the difference between the book information and people's stories/reactions, and the use of bullets and numberings were  helpful to remember the information better.

Critique of the Book

I can honestly say that I have enjoyed this book and the fact that this book is very thin.  The book was very easy to follow along to (I'm notorious for reading something and day dreaming at the same time) and I was able to relate my self to the book.  The quote that I found really interesting was: 

"Our data show that driving stress stems from inner reactions to external events, not from congestion or the actions of others.  Untrained emotions in traffic create a noxious inner atmosphere, polluting the mind with disapproval, hostility, dissatisfaction, fear, and alienation." (pg. 144)

I thought this was really interesting because majority of people will blame other people that they are the cause that lead them to hurt them or blame traffic to blow there fuse.  But in actual reality, the cause is due to how people not having trained emotions to handle the reactions to external events.

The quote that I'm still not agreeable with is, "Reacting with anger affects health because physiology is driven by how we mentally construct and interpret reality.  Getting angry is actually a weakening response that makes you ineffective because you're handing over power to an opponent-the power to injure your health through venting and dangerous retaliation.  Anger is self-punishing and self-defeating." (pg. 81)

To me, expressing or venting my anger helps me get through the emotions that I'm feeling.  It's not like my expressing anger results in me hitting somebody and I feel better.  It's letting someone know exactly how I feel (not necessarily telling it to their face) and huffing and puffing really does help me.  I don't thing for that moment of venting will weaken my response to being effective.  Maybe for that brief moment I will be only focusing on that particular event, but I get over it and move on.  However, if this venting is going throughout the day, everyday, then that's a different story.  It can ruin your health.

If you want to check out other reviews of this book on the web, go to:







Additional Observations

There's only two things that I wanted to bring up.  The first one dealt about the speed limits.  About a year after I received my license, I have always carried this rule that I would never go over 10 mph over the speed limit because of the cop's radars being a little off and I thought anything over 10 mph was speeding.  Now isn't that funny and even know I still have this rule (except for certain areas, like near houses).  However, I know I'm not the only one.  Dr. James also mentions in the book that drivers tend to drive no more than 15 mph, now that's a too high for me.

I think that speed limits should be reasonable to the area or highway that we are on.  I think they should survey this roads before putting a definite speed limit up.  I'm glad that they changed the H3 speed limit to 60 mph because people tend to drive under the limit (sight seeing maybe).  But I have to admit, when they did change it, so did my rule.  Before I was like "Okay, I can go no more than 60 mph".  Once I saw the new speed limit, I said "Alright! No more than 65 mph".  

Another thing that I wanted to bring up was the use of cellular phones in cars.  I'm kind of stuck on which side I'm for, pro or con.  The reason why I use cell phones is just to let someone know that I coming home, I'm reaching to the place where I'm suppose to be picking them up, or for directions (I'm lost).  Now, I DO NOT use the phones to simply carry on a conversation because I'm stuck in traffic.  It's hard to say who can and cannot use the cell phones while driving.  Of course for those who do drive and talk on the phone should have some type of experience like concentrating on the road while talking.  

I have come across people on the road where you see them driving real slow, and I'm talking 15-20 mph under the speed limit (even on highways).  When you finally have the chance to pass them, they're chatting on the phone having a blast, unaware of the angry drivers around them.  Another driver was just riding the bumps (in the median) the whole time I was behind them.  

You can actually say that these people are really unaware of their surroundings if they are doing these things and very likely to cause an accident.  But then again, you have people reading the newspaper in the morning while driving, eating while their knee is driving the car, and parents driving and turning fully around to scold their kids.  So there's more problems than just cell phones that are contributing to car crashes.  We just need address them one by one.






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