SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
Page 1 TOP OF DOC42321CC
ROAD RAGE: CAUSES AND DANGERS OF AGGRESSIVE DRIVING
PLEASE NOTE: The following transcript is a portion of the official hearing record of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Additional material pertinent to this transcript may be found on the web site of the Committee at [http://www.house.gov/transportation]. Complete hearing records are available for review at the Committee offices and also may be purchased at the U.S. Government Printing Office.
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
JULY 17, 1997
Printed for the use of the
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTUCTURE
BUD SHUSTER, Pennsylvania, Chairman
DON YOUNG, Alaska
THOMAS E. PETRI, Wisconsin
SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT, New York
HERBERT H. BATEMAN, Virginia
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCTHOMAS W. EWING, Illinois
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
JAY KIM, California
STEPHEN HORN, California
BOB FRANKS, New Jersey
JOHN L. MICA, Florida
JACK QUINN, New York
TILLIE K. FOWLER, Florida
VERNON J. EHLERS, Michigan
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
STEVEN C. LaTOURETTE, Ohio
SUE W. KELLY, New York
RAY LaHOOD, Illinois
RICHARD H. BAKER, Louisiana
FRANK RIGGS, California
CHARLES F. BASS, New Hampshire
ROBERT W. NEY, Ohio
JACK METCALF, Washington
JO ANN EMERSON, Missouri
EDWARD A. PEASE, Indiana
ROY BLUNT, Missouri
JOSEPH R. PITTS, Pennsylvania
ASA HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
MERRILL COOK, Utah
JOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJOHN R. THUNE, South Dakota
CHARLES W. ''CHIP'' PICKERING, Jr., Mississippi
KAY GRANGER, Texas
JON D. FOX, Pennsylvania
THOMAS M. DAVIS, Virginia
FRANK A. LoBIONDO, New Jersey
J.C. WATTS, Jr., Oklahoma
JERRY MORAN, Kansas
VITO FOSELLA, New York
JAMES L. OBERSTAR, Minnesota
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
ROBERT A. BORSKI, Pennsylvania
WILLIAM O. LIPINSKI, Illinois
ROBERT E. WISE, Jr., West Virginia
JAMES A. TRAFICANT, Jr., Ohio
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
GLENN POSHARD, Illinois
ROBERT E. (BUD) CRAMER, Jr., Alabama
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, District of Columbia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
PAT DANNER, Missouri
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJAMES E. CLYBURN, South Carolina
CORRINE BROWN, Florida
JAMES A. BARCIA, Michigan
BOB FILNER, California
EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON, Texas
FRANK MASCARA, Pennsylvania
GENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
JUANITA MILLENDER-McDONALD, California
ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS, Maryland
EARL BLUMENAUER, Oregon
MAX SANDLIN, Texas
ELLEN O. TAUSCHER, California
BILL PASCRELL, Jr., New Jersey
JAY W. JOHNSON, Wisconsin
LEONARD L. BOSWELL, Iowa
JAMES P. McGOVERN, Massachusetts
TIM HOLDEN, Pennsylvania
NICK LAMPSON, Texas
Subcommittee on Surface Transportation
THOMAS E. PETRI, Wisconsin, Chairman
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCCHARLES W. ''CHIP'' PICKERING, Jr., Mississippi Vice Chairman
HERBERT H. BATEMAN, Virginia
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
THOMAS W. EWING, Illinois
STEPHEN HORN, California
BOB FRANKS, New Jersey
JOHN L. MICA, Florida
JACK QUINN, New York
TILLIE K. FOWLER, Florida
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
STEVEN C. LaTOURETTE, Ohio
SUE W. KELLY, New York
RAY LaHOOD, Illinois
RICHARD H. BAKER, Louisana
FRANK RIGGS, California
CHARLES F. BASS, New Hampshire
ROBERT W. NEY, Ohio
JACK METCALF, Washington
JO ANN EMERSON, Missouri
EDWARD A. PEASE, Indiana
JOSEPH R. PITTS, Pennsylvania
ASA HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
MERRILL COOK, Utah
JOHN R. THUNE, South Dakota
KAY GRANGER, Texas
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJ.C. WATTS, Jr., Oklahoma
BUD SHUSTER, Pennsylvania
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
ROBERT E. (BUD) CRAMER, Jr., Alabama
PAT DANNER, Missouri
JAMES E. CLYBURN, South Carolina
CORRINE BROWN, Florida
JAMES A. BARCIA, Michigan
BOB FILNER, California
EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON, Texas
FRANK MASCARA, Pennsylvania
JUANITA MILLENDER-McDONALD, California
JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, District of Columbia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
GENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS, Maryland
MAX SANDLIN, Texas
ELLEN O. TAUSCHER, California
BILL PASCRELL, Jr., New Jersey
JAMES P. McGOVERN, Massachusetts
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJAMES L. OBERSTAR, Minnesota
Beach, Capt. Robert, Commander, Traffic Division, Fairfax County Police Department, Smooth Operator Program, accompanied by Cliff Sharp, Member, Traffic Safety Unit, and Officer Bob Walls, Fairfax County Police Department
James, Dr. Leon, Professor of Psychology, University of Hawaii
Martinez, Hon. Ricardo, M.D., Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), accompanied by Philip R. Recht, Deputy Administrator, James Hedlund, Associate Administrator for Traffic Safety Programs, and Dennis C. Judycki, Associate Administrator for Safety and System Applications, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
Nerenberg, Dr. Arnold, Traffic Psychologist, and Director of Mental Health Services, Whittier, CA
Sheikh, Lisa, Founder and Executive Director, Citizens Against Speeding and Aggressive Driving, accompanied by Brenda Fraser, Director of Development, and Adam Kaufman, Director of Legislative Affairs
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Snyder, David, Assistant General Counsel, American Insurance Association, accompanied by Judith Stone, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
Williams, Allan F., Senior Vice President, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Willis, David K., President, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
PREPARED STATEMENTS SUBMITTED BY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
Costello, Hon. Jerry F., of Illinois
Granger, Hon. Kay, of Texas
PREPARED STATEMENTS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD
Beach, Captain Robert
Martinez, Hon. Ricardo
Nerenberg, Dr. Arnold
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Sheikh, Lisa
Williams, Allan F
Willis, David K
SUBMISSIONS FOR THE RECORD
Beach, Capt. Robert, Commander, Traffic Division, Fairfax County Police Department:
National Capital Area Smooth Operator, report
Smooth Operator Enforcement Statistics April-July 1997
Regional Smooth Operator Wave I and II, chart
Nerenberg, Dr. Arnold P., Traffic Psychologist, and Director of Mental Health Services, Whittier, CA, Survey on Road Rage, Preliminary Findings, executive summary
Snyder, David, Assistant General Counsel, American Insurance Association:
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCMembers of the SAFETEA Coalition
ISTEA II Highway Safety Priorities-No Rollbacks on Safety, report
Public Opinion Poll Conducted by Louis Harris for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
Potential Savings Due to Standard Enforcement Safety Belt Use Laws, chart
Estimated Savings Already Obtained in States which have Standard Enforcement Laws, chart
Estimated Savings Yet to be Realized in Georgia which recently enacted Standard Enforcement
Background and Assumptions for Estimating the Impact of Standard Enforcement Laws
Willis, David K., President AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Aggressive Driving: Three Studies, report, March 1997
ADDITIONS TO THE RECORD
Messer, Mitchell H., Director, The Anger Clinic, statement
Morrison, D. Gail, Washington, Representative, National Motorists Association, Seven Signals for Safer Driving, pamphlet
VanVechten, C. Thomas, statement, August 31, 1997
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
ROAD RAGE: CAUSES AND DANGERS OF AGGRESSIVE DRIVING
THURSDAY, JULY 17, 1997
U.S. House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Surface Transportation,
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:30 a.m. in room 2167, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Thomas E. Petri (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. PETRI. The Subcommittee on Surface Transportation will come to order.
This morning's hearing will focus on the causes and dangers of aggressive driving, sometimes called ''road rage.'' We'll also look at what programs are in place to combat this problem and what may be done in the future.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Probably most of us in this room have experienced an aggressive driving incident, and I dare say many may even be guilty of provoking a minor incident at one time or another. Aggressive driving is not a new problem. We have witnessed sporadic outbreaks since the late 1970s. It does seem, however, that this problem is on the rise and that more people either are taking extremely dangerous risks behind the wheel or are engaging in deadly confrontations with other motorists.
A recent AAA study reported that incidents of aggressive driving have increased by 51 percent since 1991 and that nearly 90 percent of motorists have experienced an aggressive driving incident within the past year.
We know we have a problem when citizens have become so afraid of driving on the roads that grassroots groups are established to combat dangerous driving.
We know we have a serious problem when drivers in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area rank aggressive driving at the top of their concerns, even ahead of drunk driving.
We all remember the tragic result of the 1996 high-speed duel two motorists held on the George Washington Parkway over in Virginia. This senseless act resulted in the death of two innocent motorists and one of the participants. The other driver was convicted on two counts of manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years in jail.
This occurred because one driver was trying to teach the other a lesson. Hopefully we can all learn the lesson that the highway is no place to settle a dispute.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Although there are many causes of aggressive driving, a leading factor is the problem of congestion. While we're driving moreup by 35 percent since 1987 in the United Statesthe number of miles of roads has increased by just 1 percent. Congestion for a motorist is often the match that lights an already short fuse. For many, the cars become an extension of our personal space and we become defensive when we sense our territory is being encroached upon. We all seem to be coping with busy schedules and trying to fit more activities into less time, and too many drivers attempt to make up time on the road.
This subcommittee has jurisdiction over the general safety of our Nation's highways, and we fund a variety of programs to combat problems such as aggressive driving. These programs deal with the enforcement of existing laws, research projects, and behavioral modification programs.
So I'm pleased to hold this hearing today so that we may hear from those who are actively involved in programs such as these, which aim to make the time we spend on the road a more pleasant and safer experience.
With that, I'd like to welcome our many witnesses to the hearing, including Dr. Ricardo Martinez, administrator of the National Highway Safety Administration. I look forward to hearing from him and from all of our witnesses.
I now yield to the ranking democrat on the subcommittee, my colleague, Congressman Nick Rahall of West Virginia.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. RAHALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Today's hearing is on the pressing subject of aggressive driving. Aggressive driving is not a new phenomenon. The first recorded car accident in this country occurred on May 30, 1896. It took place in New York City when a car hit a bicyclist. History does not tell us whether or not the automobile driver was operating in an aggressive manner or not, but being New York City there's every good reason to believe that that was the case.
However, it should be obvious to even the most casual observer that the incidence and severity of aggressive-driving-related mishaps is on the definite increase. A number of reasons are being advanced for this situation, but in my view there are two fundamental reasons: number one, the fast pace of our modern society; and, number two, the congestion which chokes our very sanity.
Simply put, today people are much more in a rush to get from place to place than in the past. This, coupled with more cars and trucks on the road and the ensuing traffic congestion, are the ingredients which frazzle the nerves of even the most complacent of drivers at times.
Congestion. We could count the millions of hours of valued human expertise and talent that are wasted in the snarling, mean, hot lines of traffic driving up the barometers of road rage. We could look at the millions of gallons of precious fuel wasted in these same lines of seething anger, with blood pressures bubbling to the danger levels. In fact, the price of congestion is estimated at $43 billion a year.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Just look at this very morning on I-395 North, or look at any major city or not-so-major city in Anyplace, USA, and I dare say that not a week goes by without similar traffic horrors.
I would also note that aggressive driving is not just limited to urban settings. It affects rural areas, as well. In my neck of the woods, following a coal truck chugging along at 25 miles per hour up a winding mountain road for 20 minutes or so tries the patience of the most sane drivers and can cause rather aggressive actions and reactions.
To be clear, aggressive driving is socially unacceptable behavior, but it is not yet as unacceptable as driving under the influence of alcohol.
I believe the weapons employed to combat drunk driving are some of the very same tools that we need to use against the threat aggressive driving poses to the health and safety of the traveling public.
In this regard, neither the Federal Government nor any level of government can take sole credit for reducing the incidence of drunk driving. The successes we have witnessed over the years in this area come largely from education campaigns conducted by many groups. Government can assist, yes. They can contribute dollars for research, education, and enforcement, but in an of itself the government cannot eradicate the threat of aggressive driving. We can encourage people to get out of their cars and use public transit, but we cannot force them to do so. We can engage in adding lanes and building new highways, but we are hampered in these endeavors by budgetary constraints. And perhaps the bottom line is that we cannot legislate human behavior, but we can and we must legislate spending priorities more in tune with the American public.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
With that, I look forward to today's hearing. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for recognizing me.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
I yield to the chairman of the full committee, The Honorable Bud Shuster.
Mr. SHUSTER. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I think this is an extremely important hearing today, and some of these statistics I've seen are really frightening. DOT estimates that aggressive driving has played a role in at least two-thirds of the 250,000 traffic fatalities that have occurred since 1990. In fact, a recent AAA study found that violent, aggressive driving incidents have increased by 51 percent since 1990.
This committee does not have the capacity to change the emotions and the aggressive feelings of people out on the highway, but we do have a responsibility and the jurisdiction to try to change the environment which causes that aggression, and that environment is caused largely by congestion.
This committee has been fighting and will continue to fight to provide adequate funding so we can relieve congestion, and that certainly will have a very significant impact on reducing the aggressive driving that we're experiencing in this country.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In the last 10 years, for example, the vehicle miles traveled in America have increased by 35 percent, but the road capacity has increased by 1 percent. The extraordinary problems which we're experiencing with congestion in our cities is bad today and getting worse. But there are solutions to ameliorate this problem, and that is to spend the money that's available in the highway trust fund to build more modern and safer highways.
We're told by the Department of Transportation that about 30 percent of the fatalities that occur on our highways are caused as a result of inadequate highway design. Indeed, every time we replace an antiquated two-lane highway with a modern four-lane, divided highway we cut the fatality rate by a half to two-thirds. The evidence is absolutely overwhelming. When you build modern highways you relieve congestion, you save lives, you reduce injuries.
It is disgraceful that this country has billions of dollars in the transportation trust funds which are not being spent to meet these urgent needs. In the four transportation trust funds today there's over $32 billion. The American people pay their gas taxes, and they believe that when they pay that gas tax at the pump it's going to be used to improve the highway, to relieve congestion, and to improve safety. But the money isn't all being spent.
Likewise, when they pay their 10 percent ticket tax to get on an airplane they think that that money is going to be used out of the aviation trust fund to improve aviation in America, but the money is not all being spent.
Part of the solution, and a very fundamental part of the solution, is to unlock these transportation trust funds so that they can be spent to improve highways, as well as on other modes of transportation, so those highways can be safer, so, indeed, congestion can be reduced and road rage certainly can be dealt with. It certainly can be significantly reduced if we provide the funds so necessary to provide safer highways for the American people.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
So I think we've got to recognize the fact that part of the problem, a major part of this problem, is that we are not spending the money that's there to be spent in those trust funds to improve our highways. I believe that is a major part of the solution to this problem, and I certainly look forward to hearing from our witnesses today.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
A statement from the senior democrat on the full committee, Jim Oberstar of Minnesota, will be made a part of this record.
Mr. PETRI. Are there any other Members who wish to make opening statements? Yes, Mrs. Kelly.
Mrs. KELLY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I thank you for holding the hearing this morning to examine the causes and dangers associated with aggressive driving. It's a growing problem in the country that has, unfortunately, had an impact in my area and the Hudson Valley Region of New York.
In late June, a motorcyclist survived a gunshot from a raging driver on Interstate 95 in Mamaroneck, and last February one of our most popular local high school administrators was murdered following a minor traffic accident. The investigators are still seeking his killer.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Of the 1,670 highway deaths which occurred in New York in 1995, it is estimated that half were caused in part by aggressive driving.
The State is responding to the problem through a greater police presence in problem areas with marked and unmarked vehicles, and has recently begun to use aircraft to aid in the enforcement effort. State Police also maintain a hotline for motorists to identify aggressive drivers.
If I have two deaths caused by aggressive drivers in my own District, if you multiply this by 435 you can see that aggressive driving can be a huge problem in the United States.
Enforcement is important, Mr. Chairman, but we really need to study the causes behind road rage, and I'm looking forward to hearing from our witnesses this morning on ways in which we can identify and respond to the triggers which lead to aggressive driving. Perhaps we can incorporate some of these ideas when we move to reauthorize ISTEA.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Other opening statements? Mr. Blumenauer, did you
Mr. BLUMENAUER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I do appreciate having this hearing because I think we all are concerned about the implications of aggressive driving. I would hope that we could focus in two other areas. In part I am concerned that we look too much at engineering solutions such as widening roads. I think there is some evidence that suggeststhe Department of Transportation's own highway statisticsthat congestion in urban areas actually peaked in 1991, years ahead of this rash of aggressive driving incidents that have captured our attention.
I would suggest that one of the real culprits might be our laissez-faire attitude towards a driver's responsibility when he or she gets behind the wheel.
We could simply build more and wider roads in an attempt to control drivers' tempers, but that's the equivalent of giving wife beaters more room to swing.
We must raise our expectations for people's behavior, not make it easier for them to act with impunity.
Aggressive driving is one more manifestation of how cars have ceased to be our servants in society and have become our masters.
I'm sure a range of causes and solutions will be discussed here today, but I want to express my support for two solutions which have proven effective in my District and around the country.
Firstand I will be proposing some legislation to this subcommittee lateris to disarm wanton, reckless, and drunk drivers. Simply confiscate vehicles from people who have repeat patterns of behavior for drunk or reckless driving. And that's a solution that has been used far too infrequently around the country, and it's a power that judges have that I think we could find ways to strengthen.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Second is to put our communities first in terms of how we invest our transportation dollars. In 1991, ISTEA added money to build communities that people want to live in, rather than speed through. The traffic safety program allowed communities to spend money on passive and active traffic calming devices. The enhancement program allowed communities to add bike lanes, widen sidewalks, plant treesfeatures that softened streets and let drivers know that they are to share the road.
In addition, ISTEA began to support increased transportation choices. Too many people have been forced into their cars because there's no other way to get where they need to go. In many places, people who shouldn't be driving have no alternatives.
We in Congress need to focus our legislative attention on supporting communities and law-abiding citizens who live in them. ISTEA gives us a modelone that is flexible enough to address the range of challenges we face. I welcome this scrutiny of aggressive driving and its impacts, and I look forward to working with the committee on solutions.
Mr. PETRI. Okay. The gentleman from New York, Mr. Quinn, for an opening statement.
Mr. QUINN. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I'll be very brief. I have an opening statement that I'll submit for the record, but I think, more importantly, as we hear our panel todayand I'm really looking forward to all the panels that will be here.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC A lot of times when you think about this kind of situation, this road rage, you think about really urban cities like New York and Boston and Chicago, but, coming from Buffalo, New Yorkand we've heard from Mrs. Kelly and others that this is not a phenomenon limited to urban areas. It's occurring all across the country in mid-sized towns and cities and suburban areas, as well.
So as we look for solutions, some of which we've heard already from the gentleman, I think we need to be thinking about all areas across the country.
I yield back.
Mr. PETRI. Mr. Cook, would you care to make an opening statement?
Mr. COOK. Yes. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Road rage has become an alarming problem in my State of Utah. Recent polls show that citizens are now more frightened about becoming victims of violence on the highway than they are about becoming victims of gang violence. Prominent Utah pollster, Dan Jones, tells my staff that this fear of highway violence has never shown up on the polls until recent months.
Three years ago, road rage and the fear of road violence was unheard of in Utah, but my District was shocked recently by two murders on I15, which runs through the heart of Salt Lake City. One young mother was shot and killed while driving up a freeway on-ramp by a man in another car who was angry at her for cutting him off. Another man, a husband, father, and notably kind man in our community, was shot and killed only a few months ago on his way to work by another angry driver who got out of his car in stalled traffic, walked back to this man's car, and shot him repeatedly.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Fear of road rage is heightened in my District by massive construction on I15 in preparation for the 2002 Winter Olympics. The construction is expected to last for the next 5 years. Often this interstate is shut down to one or two lanes, tempers simmer, and I'm afraid that more lives will be lost.
Road rage may have started in densely urban areas, but it has spread to smaller States like Utah.
I'm pleased that this subcommittee is holding this hearing, and I hope this will be the first step in a Federal effort to educate drivers across the country on the dangers and prevention of road rage.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Representative Granger, you wanted to put a statement in the record and that will be done without objection.
[The prepared statements of Ms. Granger and Mr. Costello follow:]
Mr. PETRI. Are there any other Members who wish to make an opening statement?
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. PETRI. If none, I just would like to note that a statement from Gail Morrison of the National Motorists Association will also be included in the hearing record.
I'd like to remind all witnesses that oral testimony is strictly limited to 5 minutes, and that your full written statements will be included as a part of the record.
And now we begin with our panel, heading off with Dr. Martinez, who is the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
TESTIMONY OF HON. RICARDO MARTINEZ, M.D., ADMINISTRATOR, NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION (NHTSA), ACCOMPANIED BY PHILIP R. RECHT, DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR, JAMES HEDLUND, ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR FOR TRAFFIC SAFETY PROGRAMS, AND DENNIS C. JUDYCKI, ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR FOR SAFETY AND SYSTEM APPLICATIONS, FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION (FHWA)
Dr. MARTINEZ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for the opportunity to represent the Department of Transportation to discuss the problem of aggressive driving here today. I appreciated the opening comments by the Members.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Everyone testifying today behind us is a valued partner in working with us to solve the problem of aggressive driving. It really takes all of us.
Let me first mention several facts about the Nation's highway safety picture.
Despite enormous increase in travel, the highway fatality rate has been declining since 1966 and is now at an all-time low of 1.7 fatalities per 100 million miles traveled. The Department's highway safety programs have contributed to this progress. Despite this, we find no room for complacency, only concern.
In 1996, 41,907 people died and over 3 million more were injured in police-reported crashes. These crashes cost the Nation over $150 billion a year. We estimate that about one-third of these crashes and two-thirds of the resulting fatalities can be attributed to behavior associated with aggressive driving. The more serious the crash, the more likely aggressive behavior is involved.
The Department defines aggressive driving as driving behavior that endangers or is likely to endanger people or property, as shown in the graphic to my left. This definition includes a broad spectrum of driving behavior, ranging from risky driving and escalating to dueling and violence on the road.
As mentioned, aggressive drivers behave in ways such as speeding, tailgating, failing to yield, weaving in and out of traffic, passing on the right, screaming, honking, flashing their lights, and escalating up to violence.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
They also are more likely to be impaired by alcohol or drugs and drive unbelted and take other unsafe driving actions.
Aggressive drivers have taken their toll on America's highways, and we appreciate the opportunity to speak today.
Though the causes of aggressive driving are complex, three factors in particular are associated with it.
First, we are seeing a lack of responsible driving behavior. The problem does begin with the individual driver. Driving is a privilege that demands responsibility, not a ''me first'' philosophy. Driving is a cooperative venture and not a competitive sport.
Second, we are seeing reduced levels of traffic enforcement. Simply put, people tend to respect what we inspect. Despite large increases of travel on the road, traffic enforcement resources nationally have remained stagnant the past decade. Without enforcement, the laws of the road become the laws of the jungle. Strong laws well-enforced send strong messages that aggressive driving will not be tolerated.
Third, we are seeing increased congestion and travel, especially in urban areas. Since 1987, the number of miles of our roads has increased by about only 1 percent, while the number of vehicles driven has increased by 35 percent. During this time, the number of registered vehicles actually outpaced the population growth by 17 percent.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC New lanes or roads should be considered, but we cannot build our way out of this problem.
Aggressive driving countermeasures include education, enforcement, and engineering. First, as mentioned, we must do more to educate. A long list of educational activities through media and outreach is in my written statement, but let me mention two brief examples.
First, we have information and education activities, including providing tips to motorists on how to avoid conflicts with aggressive drivers. We are currently sending this information to over 50,000 highway safety professionals and advocates and over 20 million individuals, and actually we have a little self-test you can take at our web page to see if you're an aggressive driver or a smooth operator. We have other information available, as well.
Second, the FHWA has an extremely successful program on the problem of running red lights, a common violation of aggressive drivers. More than $600,000 has been awarded to 32 communities across the country to raise public awareness of the problem and enhance enforcement. Preliminary results show a reduction of up to 50 percent in running red lights and 24 percent reduction in crashes, alone.
Second, enforcement must play a bigger role. The best countermeasure we have is a cop in the rear-view mirror. Vigorous enforcement of traffic laws on the road and real prosecution in the courts better conveys the message that there will be swift and sure penalties for violations than anything else.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Some examples. In April Secretary Slater announced a $100,000 grant to Washington area law enforcement agencies for their joint efforts in conducting the smooth operator program, a high-profile, regional public awareness and enforcement effort targeting aggressive drivers on the Capital Beltway. The Virginia Representatives will tell you in detail about this effective program.
Another major near-term effort is NHTSA's demonstration project in our 1998 budget on aggressive driving enforcement to identify effective, innovative enforcement techniques, new enforcement technology, legislative needs, judicial needs, and the role, if any, that alcohol and drugs play in this problem. We will award a contract this fall on one of the 27 most-congested metropolitan areas.
Traffic enforcement also has a substantial effect on criminal activity. When traffic enforcement increases, more criminal activity is detected and crime decreases. A 1995 study in Grand Prairie, Texas, showed that 37 percent of all criminal arrests came from traffic stops. And I'd remind you that Mr. McVeigh, Timothy McVeigh, was picked up from a routine traffic stop.
Lastly, engineering and related operations are crucial. Engineering helps us with two basic types of countermeasures: highway design and traffic operations. Roads can be redesigned to add capacity and carry increased traffic, and even prevent or reduce crash injuries to motorists who are affected by aggressive drivers. Examples are: clear recovery zones, breakaway signposts, and divided medians, as we're doing to the G.W. Parkway here.
Advanced traffic operations also increase and control traffic flow without building new roads, and we have been hard at work to use intelligent transportation systems in this area.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Between 1985 and 1994, in Lexington, Kentucky, for example, they used smart traffic signal controls to coordinate traffic signals. This reduced stop-and-go traffic delays by 40 percent and crashes by 31 percent.
The Department's proposed NEXTEA Act of 1997 will strengthen our efforts to combat aggressive driving by increasing funding for safety efforts and adding new safety programs, reflecting Secretary Slater's priority on safety. The section 402 community highway safety grant program, jointly administered between NHTSA and FHWA, currently provides funds to every State to address their own critical safety issues, including aggressive driving. Our proposal increases funding for these programs and provides greater flexibility.
This legislation also includes significant safety initiatives, including new incentives for States to increase seat belt and child seat belt use through stronger primary seat belt laws, increased funding for fighting drunk and drugged driving, and sustained funding for technological solutions.
Seat belts, however, remain the best defense against drunk driving. We cannot forget that. A person is twice as likely to die or sustain serious injury in a crash if unbelted.
The Department is implementing the Presidential initiative to increase seat belt use to 85 percent by the year 2000 by developing strong public/private partnerships to support seat belt use and well-enforced seat belt laws.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Finally, I want to stress what each one of us can do right now about the aggressive driver. We deal with this on both a personal and social responsibility.
Personal responsibility: we have to really address our own driving behavior to make sure that we are not contributing to the aggressive driving problem. You don't become part of the problem. Don't engage someone else and escalate that. Don't personalize or challenge when someone needs to come in front of you or passes you. Report aggressive driving behavior so that we can put a focus on that in the community and increase enforcement. And always make sure that everyone in the car is properly buckled up.
As a society, we have to send a clear message that driving is a privilege that demands responsibility. That message, which we're delivering with our partners, helps increase awareness that our communities do support highly-visible aggressive enforcement.
On the social level, we must do at least five things: increase awareness of the consequences and send a strong social message on responsible driving; we need to support and strengthen licensing systems so we train you before you come in, as opposed to capture you after you've made a mistakeprograms such as graduated licensing; we need to support strong, well-enforced laws; we need to support appropriate punishment from the judicial system; we need to support improved highway management and operations.
In short, the tools are there; we've simply lacked the will to attack this problem. We think this committee hearing is good news. We're beginning to see increased national awareness on the serious consequences of aggressive driving. Recently we've seen some aggressive drivers charged with more-severe offenses such as negligent homicide and reckless endangerment. It is threatening criminal activity.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Conclusion: I want to stress that motor vehicle crashes are not inevitable; they are avoidable and preventable. And we are not helpless. We all have the power to make things better, and we need to use that power. And I remind you all to please buckle up.
Mr. Chairman, thank you.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you. And your full statement will be made a part of the record.
Mr. Rahall, do you have anything?
Mr. RAHALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Martinez, you stated in your testimony that we must approach the issue of aggressive driving on two levels, a personal level and a social level.
On the social level, you suggest supporting strengthened licensing systems. Would this licensing system include instituting routine tests on driver competence?
Dr. MARTINEZ. That's an area that we're looking at. I think that licensing has gotten less and less funding from States over a period of time, and in many States there is no recapturing of the individualI mean, bringing them back in to test them again to see what their competence is. That's an area of great discussion, an area where we have ongoing research in conjunction with the motor vehicle administrators.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The area that we are focusing on right now, however, is graduated licensing programs for the younger drivers coming into the licensing system.
All too often you can simply get your license by passing a test, taking some skill test, and maybe a written test, but there is no provisional period in which young drivers, after they get on the road, are able to be monitored and allow them time to develop not just the skills but the attitude and behavior we want them to have as they join the transportation system.
We've seen graduated licensing programs put into place in several countries and also several States in the United States, and we've seen a dramatic reduction in crashes in the younger age group related to that. We think it's a good program that should be in all States as we look at licensing all together.
One other point I'll make: when I went to Germany to visit with the auto makers there, I had a chance to drive in the German highways and to talk to their administrators. It's not uncommon for someone to leave Germany to come to the United States to get their license, because it's easier to get one here than it is over in their own country. They have much stricter requirements for training and testing and more time behind the wheel with instructors before you can get on the road.
Mr. RAHALL. You mentioned in your testimony, as well, the education effort that you have underway, the radio interviews you do, the TV interviews you do, and the ad campaigns in a constant effort to educate people. Do you have any campaign to take out commercials like FEMA has been doing or some of the other agencies have been doingexplaining for example, about flood insurance, in such an ad campaign. Do you have such a campaign?
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Dr. MARTINEZ. We have a campaign, ''Safe and Sober,'' that does quarterly messages throughout the country. We do that in conjunction with many organizations, including law enforcement, safety groups, medical groups, health groups, judicial system. And we create PSAs for that. We create information sheets. I can't think of what you call them, I'm sorry, but you can publish them, basic print PSAs, and we've done those on aggressive driving, as well as speed and other issues related to aggressive behavior.
Mr. RAHALL. In your education campaigns, I know you dwell quite a bit on what you have in these charts: personal responsibility, behavior, how to react or not react to instances. Do you also include tips that mightcommon sense type tips like, ''Don't drive 10 miles per hour in the passing lane,'' ''If you have an opportunity to move over when there's a merge on the right, move over and allow traffic to merge freely on the right.'' Do you offer tips like that?
Dr. MARTINEZ. Yes, sir, we do. We believe that, as we say, driving is a privilege that has certain responsibilities. We try to give out tips which help you effectively manage situations on the highway so that you do not create a situation that may lead to someone taking it personally and escalating to an aggressive driving incident.
Mr. Hedlund, who is our associate administrator for traffic safety programs, could quickly tell you just a little bit more about what our average programs are and what they include.
Mr. HEDLUND. The sheet that we left with you this morning gives a good example of some of these tips put in a question and answer format. ''Do you,'' for example, ''overtake other vehicles only on the left?'' That's a suggestion of a negative behavior, and the obvious positive behavior is right behind it.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
We make this available to States and communities so they can tailor it to the specific instances that they see in their communities, as well: put their own name on it, put their own face on it. And folks like Maryland, like Arizona, like California have done exactly that.
Mr. RAHALL. Very good. Thank you. Thank you, Dr. Martinez.
Mr. PETRI. Mr. Horn?
Mr. HORN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I come from southern California, where we see this every day as we take our life in our hands to get to the Los Angeles International Airport. What can we do in terms of the State traffic inspection, if you will, of the driver occurs maybe once every 4 years, maybe not in 8 years? And do we have anything that should be added to the driver test that State departments of motor vehicles could use that might identify that type of personality? I find some of them are usually driving red sports cars and blonde, be they male of female. But what do you have in your thoughts on this?
Dr. MARTINEZ. You raise a very important point that we look at very carefully now, in that what is the right qualifications for drivers' licensing and what should you look for. Certainly, when you look at things such as the graduated licensing program, we're looking at more than just skills; we're looking at attitudes and behaviors, and also looking at things you want people to learn, such as conflict resolution.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Let me again ask Mr. Hedlund to respond to that, because we have a very strong working relationship with the motor vehicle administrators who do the licensing in the States.
Mr. HEDLUND. As has been pointed out by Dr. Martinez, the issue is not skill or even knowledge as much as it is attitude. How do I behave in relation to the other people on the highway? That's something that's exceedingly difficult to measure before the fact in a driver licensing examination setting.
I think the more appropriate remedy is to have better follow-up after someone is charged; have a good driver record system that identifies and records these instances and then sends the people into the driver licensing to see if their license should be removed, suspended, if they should be sent to educational courses, or things of that sort.
Mr. HORN. Well, the educational courses aren't going to solve it because, again, they're dealing with skill and they're also sometimes just marking time and it's a big laugh, and I think you know that nationwide there's a lot of that. And you're right, it's attitude. But it seems to me congestion might be the cause of the irrational behavior, or maybe it's rational from the point of the traffic rage type who goes out on the right shoulder, speeds past 50 cars, jams his way in.
But what I see is not the problem of congestion, because we're bumper-to-bumper and you're not going too fast anywhere and the State Highway Patrol usually picks you up if you use the shoulder, but what I see the problem to be is in traffic that's moving at 60 miles an hour or 65 miles and hour, and then you get the weaver. And it seems to me when you've identified that weaver you've gone a long way to get the type of person that causes you trouble and rage on the highway. They think they're in the sort of Kentucky Derby, and they feel they can move about 80 miles an hour in front of your bumper by 2 inches and just weave in and out.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Now, that's a possibility to do something with, and then deal with the attitude problem with real psychological treatment and stick them with a fine that wakes them up.
Now, what do we know about that?
Mr. HEDLUND. I think the solution again was suggested earlier. The best educational method is the cop in the rear-view mirror. If you have adequate enforcement resources out there or you have programs where people report aggressive driving, as has been suggested, get it to the police, arrestthey are violating laws. They are driving recklessly. They can be charged with a number of things. Make the sanction appropriate. Suspend the license, give them a fine that will wake them up. This is a good way to modify behavior.
Dr. MARTINEZ. Just two points. You can't have a cop everywhere. We're not suggesting that. But we have to look at ways to keep people accountable for their behavior.
One of the problems in society right now is that the sole focus of discussion about behavior on the highway is about rights and freedoms. Very little of it is about responsibility or accountability. And, as a result, we have gone from the laws of the road to the laws of the jungle. It's very clear. If you do surveys you ask people, it's the other person who is the aggressive driver. They drive aggressively because they have to or because they're totally in control.
I was actually going to do a TV show one night, Larry King. I was to talk about aggressive driving. On the way there, the person who was driving me ran two stop lights and a stop sign, and then asked me on the way backand I protested, and she told me she had to drive aggressively but it's okay because she knows how to handle the vehicle. That's a very prevalent issue. How you change that by what I think is a social message that says, ''There are certain rules and we hold you accountable to that.''
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In order to help law enforcement, many States now have cellular phone numbers that you can dial and report. That's one way to hold people accountable. The second one is increased use of technology such as red light running campaigns and some of the photo radar ones, which are being looked at.
Mr. HORN. Dr. Martinez, where do you put this as a priority within your Administration, and what type of resources are you devoting to this?
Dr. MARTINEZ. We have focused on this issue starting about 2 to 3 years ago when we started looking at the fact that people did not see this as affecting them, or the highway travels affecting them. We began to expand our outreach to a lot of groups that have not participated in traffic safety.
We have tried to increase the visibility and relationships with enforcement within the community in order to expand their ability to enforce the laws on the road. We think we've made great headway with that. We think our relationship with law enforcement and the judicial system has expanded greatly, so it has been a priority area for us in that regard.
Let me just point out that right now, if you assault someone with a car, the likelihood of you being caught is fairly low, and the likelihood, if you're caught, of being prosecuted is fairly low because oftentimes it is treated as a traffic violation and not criminal behavior or life-threatening behavior. I think that's beginning to change because of our efforts to put a focus on this.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secondly, with regards to resources, we have in NEXTEA proposed significant increases in highway safety funding that is used or most all of the aggressive driving programs that are in the States right now, and we've also increased funding by about 73 percent for going after drunk driving, increased new funding for programs for drugged driving, and also put proposals for incentives to increase seat belt use. We think that we have aggressively gone in that direction. But, more importantly, we want to focus on taking the tools we have now and simply using them properly to begin to get back to the rules of the road.
Mr. HORN. Thank you.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you. Are there any questions on this side? Ms. Norton?
Mr. PETRI. Anyone else? Mr. Quinn?
Mr. QUINN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
You mentioned, Doctor, you're trying to get to an 85 percent seat belt use by the year 2000.
Dr. MARTINEZ. Yes, sir.
Mr. QUINN. Do you know where you are now?
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Dr. MARTINEZ. The States report seat belt use at about 68 percent. When they report it, they have to report it based upon what laws they have in their own States, so they don't include in many States pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, or others. Unfortunately, those vehicles actually have lower seat belt use, and are often bought by the younger driver who is actually more risky.
When you do observational studies, I believe it's somewhere between 61 and 62 percentabout 61.3 percent or so, so it's a little bit lower.
Mr. QUINN. Thanks very much.
You talked a few minutes ago about the relationship you have, the Department, the agency has with State motor vehicle bureaus and what efforts you might have there to influence the education and the driver training, and I wanted to talk just a minute about not the graduated licensing, where you get some drivers back into the system, but rather when we're permitting youngsters to drivethe 16-year-oldsbecause I have one of those and he's giving me rage.
Mr. QUINN. And I'm not even on the road. But he's doing better.
Talk for a minute, if you can, anybody, about what we're doing with those drivers, the 16-year-olds that are just beginning to enter the system. Talk a little bit about the test. And what's your relationship with those States? I'll tell you, my question is getting to this: one of the questions I'm told in New York State for the permit to drive is, ''What does a no parking sign mean?'' And if you're talking about the relationship you have with these States across the country, how can you influence, how can we help there?
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Dr. MARTINEZ. Well, you raise some very good points and about an area which we've looked at very hard. Let me go younger than 16 years old. I actually believe that we need to start not just driver's education, we need to start occupant education very, very young.
One of the things that scares me is the fact that if you look at these teenagers, as your son is now coming to the driving age, if you look at them prior to that, 13 to 16 years old, when they're in the front right seat, they're mostly unbelted as passengers. Their seat belt use is incredibly low. And 63 percent of the time that they die in a fatal crash, they are with a teenage driver. So that is a real concern for us. We really want to move that number down.
We've signed a letter of commitment with the Department of Educationwe're in over 100,000 schools right nowtrying to put a better focus on that. Quite frankly, it's hard to get traffic safety into school curriculums, so we're working with the science teachers now, because that's one way to get it intalk about, you know, momentum and speed and force, and they can use it and it's real.
And we've done some studies in my previous academic life at Stanford. We did some studies with high schools, and they tend to understand it better in the science class, I think, number one.
Number two is the age group you're talking about really wants to drive to become more social. That's a real driving issue for them. So it's hard for them to really focus on anything such as attitude and behavior when they're focusing on the skills they need to get their driver's license.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
That age group, if you ask them who are the best drivers on the road, will tell you that they are and they're really glad that you asked, because they have great skills and reflexes and everything else, so they only really need, like, 2 or 3 feet between them and the car ahead of them because they've got these great skills. That is a real problem.
We don't focus on the consequences of car crashes enough in the media or in society or in the entire education system. When they finally come into the transportation system they're totally the focused about getting the skills, to get out and do what they want to do.
So we're focusing, again, on the whole system. We're working with the motor vehicle administrators, and we're working with them to do graduated licensing programs, which gives about 18 months instead of 6 months to get young drivers on the road and augments all the concerns of parents.
We've gotten feedback from parents through our work with PTA's and others that this program gives the parents a greater tool because the States are now saying, ''We take this as a much more important issue than just getting a license. You are joining the system.'' We found that to be effective in helping affect their attitudes. Clearly we think we should do more.
Mr. QUINN. Thank you very much. And, while my time is coming to a close here, just to say to you I think your comment that we need to hold people accountable for their behavior is key to this, and it is two partspersonal and societal. And a lot of time and money and effort has been spent, for example, in our classrooms. I'm a former junior high school teacher. That's why that interests me. It interests everyone here. But we need to start younger and younger.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In the DARE program, for example, that talks about drug and alcohol abuse but really talks about youngsters making decisions and the pressure they feel from other youngsters and all the things you just mentioned here. We might want to be thinking about trying to combine that whole decision-making with the DARE program and drunk and alcohol and those problems with this situation, too, trying to get the kids younger, as young as we possibly can, to have some connections made here with all of the problems that we'll hear later and that you've already outlined.
So thanks for that, and later on this morning, if we have a chance, maybe we can explore that.
Dr. MARTINEZ. I appreciate that. And I thank you for your focus on youth, because we think that's a real area we can work together on.
Mr. QUINN. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. PETRI. Representative Norton from the District of Columbia.
Ms. NORTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
There is a question that I had hoped to ask, and it really comes out of page two of the administrator's testimony about the causes of aggressive environment in whichand really a very brief section there are some guesstimates here about what might be the cause, indicating that we don't know the causes, in effect, and then linking the behavior with responsible driving behavior, with reduced traffic enforcement, and we congestion.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Because I am remedy-oriented, I think it very important for the Department to have a more-precise understanding of what the causes are. For example, if irresponsible driving behavior is a cause, we know that certain kinds of campaigns can alert the public and can help children and people who are beginning to drive learn certain kinds of behavior modification. If it is reduced levels of traffic enforcement and that's all it is, then there are many jurisdictions that would want to increase the level of traffic enforcement. If the is increased congestion, I'd be very pessimistic.
I want to know whether the Department is sponsoring any studies that would help us get a better fix on causes and how you can recommend modifications without having a more precise understanding of the causes.
Dr. MARTINEZ. Well, first off, as Chairman Petri said earlier, this has been going on since 1976, and the contributing areas that it are fairly clear from studies, such as looking at youth, looking at their behavior and their views of driving that allow us to point out such issues as responsible driving behavior, the reduced levels of enforcement over a period of time, and the increased traffic congestion. I'll let others respond to that, also.
Regarding the research we're doing, yes, we are. We're doing additional research on this, including surveys and crash investigations through our NASS program and our crash investigation teams to really look at all the parameters that are involved.
Essentially, though, one of the things I want to caution, is that every crash is multi-factorial and has many contributing events, whether it be speed, lack of seat belts, alcohol on board, and then aggressive behavior on top of that, too.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
So it's very hard to go out and point to one factor, one answer. That's why our approach is usually a comprehensive strategy that looks from the beginning to the end and tries to envelope that as a way to bring us back to decreasing the problem at hand.
Mr. RECHT. If I could just add to that, there have been a number of successful programs at the State level, which have attempted to attack the problem, in California, Arizona, Maryland, and the like. Those programs have all involved education and increased enforcement, and they've all brought about a reduction in these so-called ''aggressive'' or speed-related crashes.
So we do know that if you do increase enforcement, and particularly with high-profile education going with it, we do know that is effective.
Mr. JUDYCKI. If I may add, also, I think that the work that has been done so far that you will probably hear about from AAA and others, certainly the drivers, themselves, have acknowledged that increase in congestion, as well as just the day-to-day stress, is a factor that provides rage on the roadway.
Although people are spending, in some metropolitan areas, up to a week a year in traffic in congestion and delay in our larger metropolitan areas, I think there is some hope. Part of the Administration's proposal is to take a look at more-effective operations and management of the transportation systems that are critically important, from our perspective, to decrease hopefully driver frustration due to gridlock.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Administrator Martinez mentioned some of the benefits that have been achieved around the country, and those benefits can be replicated and are being replicated elsewhere.
The traveler information services system, called ''partnerships in motion,'' that was just initiated here in the D.C. metropolitan area, in fact, is providing day-to-day traffic reports and has a great deal of potential of providing credible, realistic information to drivers in congested conditions.
We think that's a very important component to overall systems management and operation.
Ms. NORTON. With respect to the multi-causal
Mr. PETRI. There will be an opportunity for another round of questioning, but we've got a lot of
Ms. NORTON. I just wanted to finish this off. I don't have another question. If I could just finish saying
Mr. PETRI. Sure. Go ahead.
Ms. NORTON. With respect to the multi-causal analysis, let me just indicate that everything in society is caused by a multiple of causes, and I just want to say that you have, in your testimony on page two, added aggressive driving to a list of the usual causes of accidents, and that I think it important to disaggregate aggressive driving, since apparently that is something new or relatively new, as opposed to speeding, for example, or drunken driving, so that we have a better understanding of it and can right now try to nip it in the bud.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Mr. LATOURETTE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Martinez, I wanted to talk to you in a couple of minutes about allocation of resources that Chairman Shuster started during the opening remarks, but during your testimony I picked up my pencil and I wrote down the story about you driving to the Larry King show and the woman or the individual driving through stop signs, and the statement, ''I can handle that.''
The question I have is, I have a good friend back in the District who picks me up and takes me to various events so we can spend time together, but I find myself involuntarily, from time to time, picking up my foot and applying it to an imaginary brake on the passenger side of the vehicle. And I think that when inquired you say, ''Well, why do you drive like that,'' and it's, ''Well, the car has anti-lock brakes,'' or, ''I have an air bag.''
I'm wondering if some of the safety improvements we've made in our vehicles haven't increased the feeling of invincibility that drivers now feel that they're in a mini tank and they can engage in behavior but for these enhanced safety features they may not have tried just a couple of years ago, and wondered whether NHTSA had done any research or had any thoughts on that.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Dr. MARTINEZ. We've looked that over. It has actually been a debate on everything like that for years and years and years. And actually, the last five studies I saw really kind of debunked that being a major problem. I'm sure there are some people use this as their excuse to do what they want to do. I don't see that when people put smoke detectors in their home they start lighting fires in their houses. I mean, the idea overall is to not have a crash to begin with, and putting the safety equipment in should not make you try harder to do things that may get cause you to have a crash. Obviously, you feel he may be risking a crash.
So we've not found it to be true on a wide scale. I would not argue that there are some people who use that to justify what they do, but we've not found that on a large scale to be a cause and effect consequences.
Mr. LATOURETTE. Good. I appreciate that.
Back to the issue on allocation of resources, on page two of your testimony I was more than struck by the highlighted sentence that indicates that about two-thirds of the traffic fatalities in this country you believe or NHTSA believes are a direct result of aggressive driving.
As I remember the figures as we were doing ISTEA, about 41,000 people a year die on our highways. And, if I remember further, it's the leading cause of death of Americans six to 28, if I have that right.
Dr. MARTINEZ. Yes. Very good.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. LATOURETTE. Which would have about 26,000 Americans a year dying on the basis of aggressive driving.
Just by way of comparisonand it's apples and oranges, but in terms of number of lives lost, yesterday the Administration announced their approval of enhanced ozone and particulate matter standards that are estimated to lead to 15,000 premature deaths per year. Your figures would indicate that we're losing 11,000 more people a year to aggressive driving than we would pick up or gain, according to Administrator Browner's estimates on the clean air standards.
So that leads me to the question of allocation of resources. When Mr. Blumenauer made his opening remarks, I think he hit the nail on the head and I think the chairman hit the nail on the head, as well. In Ohio we basically have two seasons, one is winter and the other one is the construction season. But our Department of Transportation has come to us, quite frankly, and I assume the Departments of Transportation in the States of all of the Members on this committee and said that, because of the fact that we are holding hostage the highway trust fund, because of the fact we have diverted 4.3 cents of the Federal gas tax to deficit reduction rather than transportation needs, at the turn of the century our Departments of Transportation will only be able to engage in maintenance and new construction starts will beunless there is a vast increase in taxes, gasoline taxes or other taxes, we're not going to be able to keep pace.
And that ties in to your statements and Chairman Shuster's observations that we've seen a dramatic increase in miles traveled, but we haven't kept pace with either building additional roads, additional lanes, or Mr. Blumenauer's suggestion that we put money into mass transit so we can put people on commuter trail and get them to and from the rural areas to the city.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
So the question is, as my yellow light comes on: would you agree with the assessment, I suppose, made by Chairman Shuster and also Mr. Blumenauer, that we need to focus more of our resources on the Federal level on alleviating congestion? And the second part would be: as this committee moves forward to reauthorize ISTEA hopefully this year, what can we do for NHTSA that would help you with the aggressive driving problem?
Dr. MARTINEZ. Well, I appreciate your problems, because it is pretty amazing the numbers out there. I think today is the anniversary of the TWA crash, which is a fairly big tragedy. We lose three times that number of people each week in this society from death by car, and we think that that's a very important area for us as a society to attack.
I will tell you that over the last decade funding of our programs dropped by 50 percent, but through bipartisan support in the last several years we've seen a reversal of that. We're very proud of our relationships with the committees. And the NEXTEA proposal increases our funding by another 25 percent, as well as adds flexibility to the funding of up to a billion more dollars to move into the safety programs.
We think that is one good way to begin to rectify the situation. We also wonder if we're beginning to pay the price of that decreased investment over the years.
With regard to construction, we do think that we want to take the dollars and put the dollars into construction. We proposed State infrastructure banks in order to leverage those dollars over time, I do want to point out that we've also continued funding for the ITS, intelligent transportation systems. Basically we've been able to show some fairly significant decreases in traffic and congestion by using the roads we have in a better way.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
One of the concerns we have, of course, is you can make cars faster than new roads. And when the number of cars outstrips the growth of population, you can have move people in cars than new roads, too. We worry that we have to use roads more appropriately.
Mr. LATOURETTE. Thank you very much.
Dr. MARTINEZ. Thank you.
Mr. LATOURETTE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Mrs. DANNER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
There is an old axiom that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so we should really, I think, be looking at preventative measures more so than punitive measures.
I'm wondering whether you're really using or can suggest to us a better way to use the educational system that television provides us through public service announcements, you know, structuring a 30-second spot, for example, on the channels and for the programs that are directed more toward the young people. We've heard the ages of 16 to 28. Are you all doing that, because we've found that very effective. Certainly many of us here are here because of television advertising, so perhaps we can address this aggressive driver through television.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Dr. MARTINEZ. Well, we certainly think hearings like this give an opportunity to put this on the radar screen of the American people. We believe that there are many ways to influence society, including the media. The media I think needs to do a better job of showing safe behaviors in their TV shows and movies, for example. We also think that role models in sports should be more positive for youth, not picked up for doing 130 miles an hour on the highways. We also think that you influence our society through schools, and I've mentioned that, and also through business.
Businesses often have drug policies but they don't have traffic safety policies, yet they influence many employees and their families. During the health care debate, many businesses began to recognize that over 40 percent of their costs were from not employees but employees' families. We think that's important.
So we've actually gone out to build relationships that have not existed to begin to show people that they are part of the solution to the problem and that they reinforce the positive message, so we certainly think the media is an important part of that and are actively engaging them to do that.
We also think that the messages for education are part of it, that you go through it. But don't forget that there are also high-risk individuals who don't respond to that. At that point you have to look at holding people accountable. I mean, who still thinks it's a good idea to drink and drive? We've still got a problem with that. So for that to go away we have to increase our ability to enforce, and then we have to adjudicate those actions.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It concerns me when someone does, as reported in a recent case locally, 60 miles an hour in a 30-mile-per-hour zone because they were late for work, thinking that they had no risk to anyone but themselves. Not true, they are risks to everyone else. They lost control of the car, killed five peoplea mother and her four childrenat the bus stop. And when it came to penalties, the driver was hit with traffic fines and that was it.
So the message was that this is a traffic violation and it's an accident, but really it's not what it was, it was more than that.
Mrs. DANNER. But you really haven't addressed my question to you whether or not you're using any public service announcements, which I think are very effective. And the answer is yes or no?
Dr. MARTINEZ. As for public service, yes, we do. I mentioned that early, I'm sorry, with the campaign Safe and Sober with our quarterly planners. It's one of our rotating messages we put out.
Mrs. DANNER. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Representative Baucus, did you have questions?
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BACHUS. When we talk about aggressive driving, isn't this really the most common type of driving in today's culture?
Dr. MARTINEZ. You mean if we went out and saw how many people out there, it would be the most common type of driving?
Mr. BACHUS. Yes.
Dr. MARTINEZ. I don't know if I can answer that. Our definition covers a fairly broad category, from creating risk for others for life and property. But it would be the more common cause of serious crashes. The more serious the crash is, the more likely aggressive driving is involved. Whether that slips into everyone's driving habits normally or a small percent that represents the greatest harm, I think it's more of the latter.
Mr. BACHUS. What I guess I'm saying, is it not part of our culture today, especially in rush-hour driving?
Dr. MARTINEZ. Yes. I believe our culture, on highway matter is focused strongly on independence and individual risk and not focused on the shared risk we all have.
Mr. BACHUS. You know, if I drive in to work, I'm going to observe aggressive driving 20, 30, 40 times, and if I want to get in the fast lane and go 15 miles or 10 miles or even 5 miles below the top speed, I'm going to be a target of aggressive driving.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So I think the problem here is monumental, because I obviously think that our common senseI think 40 percent of our citizenry, at least, are what we could call40 or 50 percent are aggressive drivers, particularly when they are provoked. And it doesn't take a lot. Something they feel like issomeone that's waiting too long, you know, not going through a light. You've just got all this congestion and you're also mixing these big trucks and little cars.
I would say driving interstates, as most of us do, we observe some very aggressive big trucks, which appear to be as part of their common, ordinary behavior is to intimidate people off the fast lane, even if they're exceeding the speed limit.
So I'm just wondering how weI almost think we have to change our highway system to get rid of this aggressive driving. We've got to change something. I mean, there have got to be some fundamental changes.
Dr. MARTINEZ. I certainly agree with you. I could not agree with you more. I believe that we have just begun to wake up to the fact that this has gotten to the point that it has. But it has been getting there, and we have not been able to get it on the radar screen in many people's minds.
Two or three years ago the big discussion, as I said, was on individual rights. Now I think that's a true concern, but I think you've got to balance that with the good of society and the risk you give to others.
When you say someone targets you, what I feel often is that I'm in their way. They have all kinds of rights, but I'm in their way, and they're going to take a risk with me, and that is the essence of what we have to turn around. And we do it through good education, we do it through focusing on the consequences more and more.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I'm actually glad to see, the media, showing more and more the people who have been killed or family members of people who have been killed from the behavior on the roads, because we have done a poor job of putting a face on this.
When you say 41,000 people a year, that's just a number to most people, but it's your neighbors and it's your friends and it's your colleagues, and now people are beginning to think it may be them, and that's when we're seeing people wake up.
It has always been a major problem. It's something we have to address through a comprehensive strategy.
Mr. BACHUS. I think we need to first of all just agree that this is part of our culture, it's widespread, it's you and I, it's our neighbors, it's our friends, it's our children, sometimes it's our parents who cause it by gettingI've been in the car with one of my parentsI won't say which one, to hide their identityand I have said to them, ''You're in a 70-mile-an-hour lane and you probably need to get in the slow lane.'' As the hostilityI could feel it, I could see it.
I think even where we have the Metro here, only 2 percent of the people use the Metro. So if we say mass transitand we've got a great system herewe've still got 98 percent of the people that want to get in their car and go to work every day, and we don't have the system to handle that in a quiet, comforting way when it takes people 2 hours to get to work.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So this isI'm not sure this isn't our worst cultural problem and most aggressive, most threatening behavior that we as Americans confront on a day-to-day basis.
Dr. MARTINEZ. As Mr. LaTourette pointed out earlier, I'm always appalled that this is a leading cause of death under age 44, the leading cause of death of our children, the leading cause of death of our teenagers, the leading cause of death on the job, leading cause of head injury, leading cause of spine injury, and we have not embraced this as something we have to overcome.
Many of the tools are there; it's a matter of our will to focus on this. And so I think that we should take the opportunity to move forward together to do something.
Mr. BACHUS. And I think we need to admit as societyand I'll endthat it causes us allnot all. I won't speak for everyone. I will speak for myself. It causes me to do things that I'm amazed that I did later, and it really needs to be some soul searching by all of us.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Representative Millender-McDonald, do you have any questions?
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to commend you on bringing this issue to the committee. This is a very important one, and certainly one well overdue.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I suppose, coming from California and representing parts of Los Angeles, I needn't tell you that road rage is very high in Los Angeles. Having over 33 million people in the State of California and over 6 million folks who are in vehicles on a daily basis in Los Angeles gives pause for concern.
We have had drive-by shootings, as you know, on the freeway. The concern that I haveand I agree with my colleague, the gentleman from Alabama, because there seems to be a culture. When we lifted the 55 miles per hour on certain roads and highways, it seems to have given people the autonomy to fly down these freeways and streets, irrespective of what the speed limit is.
And so when I look at your chart and when I look at and read some of the material, my question isand you did speak to my colleague, Ms. Danner, on PSAs. To report aggressive driving behavior to me is ashould be all of our responsibility, everyone. But I want to raise an issue with you on the increased awareness of the consequences. You have on your chart ''special responsibility.'' Who might that be outside of law enforcement? It is important that we all get involved in trying to reduce the 41,000 number of deaths and accidents.
So the special responsibility
Dr. MARTINEZ. Societal.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. I'm sorry?
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. MARTINEZ. ''Societal'' is what it says.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. All right. Fine. I'm sorry. I don't have glasses on and cannot read the statistics.
Dr. MARTINEZ. I just got my bifocals last week.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. So society again, it is each of our responsibility to do that.
Dr. MARTINEZ. Yes, ma'am.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. What do we do with these large trucks that get into the fast lanes and go just like they are bats out of hell?
Dr. MARTINEZ. You make some very good points to begin with. I was an emergency physician in California, and I tell you I remember when some of the shootings started on the highways, and it was surprising to get people from car crashes that also had gunshot wounds. It was quite an unnerving experience.
The focus of the societal responses, by the way, are that we think we need to increase awareness of the consequences, improve the way you get into the system, focus on better enforcement, and also focus on the judicial system to make sure there are consequences if you're arrested.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With trucks, that's a separate category. We have programs through the motor carriers office in the Federal Highway Administration which working with law enforcement. By definition, a truck that is large that's speeding really is a lethal weapon, and most of the people who are killed in crashes with trucks are actually not the truck driver, but 75 percent are the people in the other vehicles.
So I will turn it over to Dennis Judycki, just to mention a few of the programs that are focused just on trucks.
Mr. JUDYCKI. Let me just mention that certainly the NEXTEA proposal and reauthorization will increase the attention and the investment in the motor carrier safety assistance program for getting at just the issues that you are raising with trucks, but let me also mention the technology for enforcement.
Administrator Martinez had mentioned the tie to red light running and the effectiveness of photo radar in enforcement for red light running. Areas like Howard County, as well as Paradise Valley in Arizona, have found significant reduction, 50 percent reduction in red light runners and in crashes when they instituted photo technology to follow up.
Regarding motor carriers and heavier trucks, both Pennsylvania as well as our Office of Motor Carriers, in conjunction with the State police in Maryland, are instituting an aggressive driver pilot with photo enforcement to, take a look at whether or not it is effective on a broader basis. In this particular case, the project is on the beltway in Maryland around the Washington metropolitan area, to observe and follow up with enforcement when erratic movements and improper, risky behavior on the part of truck drivers are spotted. That is a pilot program that's going to be underway later this summer and will be evaluated over the next few months.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
So we think that there is a great deal of benefit to be gained from such countermeasures against risky behavior and that there will be more acceptance for this sort of enforcement through technology.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. Dr. Martinez, I would like to just close in saying that I would like to see a PSA that says, ''While you think only the law enforcement is responsible for curtailing this, it is also up to you,'' or that type of thing.
Dr. MARTINEZ. I like that. I like that idea. Thank you.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Mr. BASS. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Dr. Martinez, for coming here today. This is a very important issueperhaps only a manifestation, frankly, of the more fundamental problem in society where we seem to be a little more disagreeable to one another. Every year we seem to exhibit less civility, and I don't think that the Highway Safety Administration can do much about that.
On the other hand, I think there might be, as you pointed out in your testimony, a number of different avenues that can be pursued.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I did take the opportunity to fill out this questionnaire on the back sheet of this sheet of paper here, and I note that there really are significant discrepancies between what is allowed in one State versus another. For example, overtake other vehicles only on the left, avoid using the car telephone while driving, yield and move to the right for emergency vehicles, drive trucks at posted speeds in proper lanes, yielding to pedestrians, and so on. Has the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration undertaken the project of putting together perhaps a model program for State legislatures to enact? It might make more uniform some of these driving techniques from one State to the other.
Perhaps this would be one way, not only in the area of training, enforcement, highway conditions, and so forth, and signage where we might be able to get some standards applied nationwide that would perhaps reduce or codify some of the bad habits that may not actually be addressed in many States.
Dr. MARTINEZ. Well, I appreciate your comments, because there is variability from State to State. We have redoubled our efforts, actually. As this issue has been raised more and more, it has given us the opportunity to work more with the State legislatures.
We are actually speaking in 2 weeks or so to the National Conference of State Legislatures for the fourth time in the past 3 years or so. One of the areas of focus people come to us for is uniform traffic laws or best practices, and we have that focus in certain types of laws such as seat belt laws, some of the speed laws, passing laws, that sort of thing.
But our relationship with the States is really one where we do not make them enact anything. We do it through persuasion. And so we think the dialogue is getting better for us to do more and more.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. HEDLUND. If I could add briefly, we work with States and with all the other partners, including the private sector, to develop the uniform traffic laws and ordinances, a collection of standard laws and ordinances that everyone buys into as accepted practice, and we use that as the model that States should start from to try to get to the uniformity of which you speak.
Mr. BASS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Mr. Sandlin, do you have any questions?
Mr. SANDLIN. Yes, sir.
I was looking at page four and have listened to you talk about education efforts, distributing public information, education, providing tips to motorists, and we've talked a lot about PSAs this morning. All those are important things.
I wanted to talk to you a minute or ask you about driver's education. I've read recently of a 1978 [sic] study in Georgia that found driver's ed courses did not reduce crashes or traffic violations. I've also read that only about 40 percent of new drivers today complete a formal driver's education program.
I know when I was a young person that was very common. That's the way you got your license at an earlier age.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I would be interested in your comment about the benefit of driver's education courses and whether or not driver's ed courses should be a part of any sort of ISTEA reauthorization.
Dr. MARTINEZ. That's a very good question. I'll answer a little bit and turn it over to Dr. Hedlund, who will give you a little bit more about that, particularly if you want more information on some of these studies.
A course by itself does not necessarily change behavior. A course may improve education or knowledge; it doesn't necessarily change attitude or the behavior aspects or outcome.
Studies looked at driver's education programs when thay were mandatory years ago, and they showed that after you had it you got your license at a younger age. They actually showed increased numbers of crashes, because what you do is you put the child out who still is essentially a child. I hate to say that, but at 16 you're still 16.
If you compared someone who had their driver's education training at 16 and followed them until they're 18, and saw one who got their education and started at 18, they have the same crash rate. Essentially the maturity was a big factor.
So we're looking not only at what's the best way to teach and what you need to teach, but also how you get into the licensing system, which is why I mentioned the idea of the graduated licensing program. We think that gives you more time to affect the behavior and therefore the outcome on that.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. HEDLUND. We think that driver education can't be accomplished well initially at the time someone is 16 getting the first license. They are basically at that time worrying about skills: how do I turn the car on? How do I get from here to there? They don't have the attention, they don't have the experience to deal with the behavioral and the attitudinal issues that are really the cause of the aggressive driving that we hear about today.
We're working on three things to try to improve that. The first is involving the parents much more in that initial stage, that they have a role. It's not just a young man or young woman, themselves, but it's a family activity to involve the parents and their responsibility.
Second, better use of modern technology such as simulation to put young students in situations to get their reactions and their behavior that you couldn't do just in driving and going around the street, as normal driver ed does.
Third, talking about advanced driver education after the student has had some practice time through the graduated licensing system, when the attitudes, when the safe driving practices can really be taught and sink in. We're working on all three of those things.
Dr. MARTINEZ. Just one last comment. You talked about the decrease in number of courses. A lot of those are taught in schools, and so they were cut out as the school budgets have been stressed, so we're trying to find a way, if we start something like driver's education, try to revive it. How do you get it into the schools or how do you get into the system? The graduated licensing program gives us more time to accomplish those goals.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. SANDLIN. That's a good point. When you're saying you're not as concerned with the young drivers and attitude and they're more concerned with skills, I don't know that that's necessarily true. I think most young people know how to start the car and how to drive, and we can pick that up pretty quickly, but I think what would be important would be starting at the very, very beginning saying, ''This is an issue. Aggressive driving is an issue. Attitude is an issue.'' That was never taught to me as a young person. I don't think it was quite the problem back then. But I think if you identify them from the very beginning, that would be.
Let me ask one other quick thing. I know my time is nearly out, but it's based upon what you said.
On page eight of your testimony it says, ''NEXTEA's integrated safety fund as proposed in NEXTEA would reward States that have good integrated safety plans.'' Could that include in the NEXTEA proposal driver's education programs?
Dr. MARTINEZ. It will be on a State-by-State basis, but certainly they would have the flexibility to do that. We've written this for maximum flexibility.
Mr. SANDLIN. No further questions, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PITTS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Dr. Martinez, for your testimony highlighting this important issue.
I have a couple of questions.
In your testimony you define aggressive driving as ''driving behavior that endangers or is likely to endanger people or property.'' Would you include in this definition reading while you're driving or driving when you're drowsy or an elderly person driving slow in a fast lane?
Dr. MARTINEZ. I don't know what's included in the large group. I'd say typically distraction as being one behavior in which the vehicle is being used a certain way, but I think it's certainly a contributing factor to crashes out there.
Mr. PITTS. Those would certainly, it seems to me, endanger people or property, if that is part of the definition of ''aggressive.''
I'm more interested in the aggressive driving where people are reacting in anger or using their car as an assault weapon. Do you have statistics particularly for that kind of driving?
Dr. MARTINEZ. At the extreme, when someone has basically used the vehicle as a weapon, in my opinion, a lot of these behaviors you can throw into that category. But ones in which someone has voluntarily tried to harm someone else, I don't know if we have those numbers right there.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The AAA foundation has actually begun to use the news services to look at those particular cases as they can find them, and they have found a fairly large increase over the last few years. I'm sure that they'll be able to give more information on that.
Mr. PITTS. When you said in your testimony that two-thirds of all fatal accidents involve aggressive driving, how did you determine this two-thirds figure?
Dr. MARTINEZ. I can turn to Jim hedlund, but it goes into this definition which is fairly broad.
When you look at that, there areI'll just give you a good example. If you look at alcohol involved in crashes, for example, something like 5 percent of all crashes are alcohol involved. But if you look at ones with serious damage, it's higherabout 20 percent or so. If you look at ones in which there is serious injury, then it's about 30 percent or so. If you look at fatalities, it's up to 40 percent. So it's over-represented that way.
So if you look at fatalities, remember there are about 12 million crashes a year, causing fatalities of 40,000 individuals. And when you look at that relationship to the more serious crashes being related to aggressive type behavior, including the speeding and following too close and drunk driving, then you end up with a large percentage of that.
Mr. PITTS. And do you find a relationship between alcohol-related and aggression?
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. MARTINEZ. People who typically are in these crashes are not someone who is driving well and just happens to be inebriated and so therefore has the crash as an isolated case. The big three factors with that are usually speeding, drunk, no seat belt, and usually in many cases the cause of the crash is moving out of their lane to hit head-on, or something like that.
So yes, we do find, when we look at the fatal crashes, that the alcohol still represents 40 percent of those, and usually in cases which are fairly severe events.
You notice a lot of times when you read about these, the people who are killed in the other car had seat belts on and had air bags and everything else, and because of the violence of the crash, they died in spite of that.
Mr. HEDLUND. If I can add, most of the fatal crashes that involve alcohol also involve one of these behaviors cited by the police, or typically associated with aggressive driving, such as failure to yield or not obeying traffic signs or tailgating, and so forth.
Dr. MARTINEZ. This is police-reported data. This is where we get the cause of the crash.
Mr. PITTS. I'm also interested in driver ed. Do you have any kind of curriculum suggestions for driver ed courses for someone taking driver license training, for instance? Or. if a person is involved in a violation, the need to take remedial education?
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. MARTINEZ. Our traffic research program does focus on the driver's education aspect. Actually, it is getting, I'm glad to see, more focus again, looking for resources to put them back into areas where the students are.
I'll turn that over to Jim.
Mr. HEDLUND. As I said earlier, we add developing new curricula for driver education for the beginning students, as we discussed, involving simulation, involving parental role, and involving the sorts of attitudes that Mr. Sandlin was talking about earlier.
Mr. PITTS. Thank you very much.
Dr. MARTINEZ. Thank you, sir.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Mr. MCGOVERN. I guess I just want to follow up on some of the issues that were raised by some of the previous Members. I want to get to this issue a little bit more on how do you deal with day-to-day stress problems when people are trying to get to work, drop their kids off, pick up the laundry, do all these kinds of things. I mean, you could talk about better enforcement and, you know, bigger fines for speeding, but it seems to me that nowadays people are more and more overwhelmed, and you're trying to get to work on time, always being late, trying to pick their kids up.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Even if you increase fines and increase enforcement, if you've got to pick your kids up at 5:00 and you're getting out of work you may take a chance and be a little bit more aggressive just to be there because you have no choice.
It seems to me that there is a part of this that cannot be addressed simply by PSAs or by increased enforcement or by stiffer fines or by telling people to be more responsible.
I guess my question is: how do you deal with that? I mean, when you deal with businesses, for example, are you encouraging them to embrace flex time, or are you dealing with issues like that?
And just one last question, just in terms of comparing our aggressive driving habits in this country with other countries. Have you done that? Is our society just, by nature, more overwhelmed by everything? Are we just more aggressive compared to other countries, or its this a problem worldwide?
Dr. MARTINEZ. Let me do the last one first, and that is whether there is a growing concern about it internationally. But I think certainly this country is considered as probably one of the more-stressed and one of the faster countries. So in this area we tend to see a lot more focus on it right now in the United States.
The United Kingdom is looking at it and Australia is looking at it and a few others. They call it ''road rages'' for example.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
With regards to stress, you make a very good point, and it was pointed out earlier by some of the other Members in that this does not always just show itself on the road, but it also shows itself in the work place and in family life and everything else, and we are engaging others, as we meet with them, to talk about the stress issue, also.
One way we've embraced the business world, for example, is through the Network Employers for Traffic Safety to start talking about transportation-related safety, and that does focus somewhat on the stress aspect of it, both on the drivers but also on the family side.
I'm happy to tell you that business is beginning to look at this more and more. We recently were at a meeting with the National Safety Council asking Fortune 500 to come, and we were very surprised at the number of organizations that cameover 160.
When we talk to the medical groups, for example, we find that this is an issue where they can help, also, counsel people, talk about how you deal with the stress issues.
It seems on the traffic side that our lives are speeding up and our roads are slowing down. I think that's one of the issues people have pointed out to address as we focus on this issue.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Representative Granger, did you
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Ms. GRANGER. Yes. One question.
We talked a lot today about teenage drivers or young drivers, perhaps because so many of us are parents and have been through the harrowing experience of our own teenagers. But when I think of someone having rage, road rage, I think of an older driver. What are your studies showing about the ages of the drivers?
Dr. MARTINEZ. Unfortunately, we've seen the enemy. It's us. It tends to be all over the board in way of types of behavior. But if you wanted to look at the prototypical person who is more likely to act on their impulses and allow it to escalate, it's probably young males. We call them the ''double-O drivers,'' licensed to kill in some ways, because they have a license and they have the car and they have this belief of independence and fully in control of the vehicle.
A 3,000 pound weapon is what the car becomes in the hands of a rude or hostile person, and we see that over and over in our clips and in our reports of these cases, such as the one currently in the Beltway, some of the cases that have escalated into violence.
On the other side of the coin, when you talk about the elderly aspect of it, one of the areas we are concerned about is when people should leave the transportation system or the highway and who have the ability to drive, on that. We're working with the medical organizations and others. We're doing research on how to help identify that problem and let families help deal with that issue, because it's really a family issue in some ways that's of more concern. But that, unfortunately, turns out to be males again who don't want to let go of the car because of its mobility and independence. We're trying to find ways to deal with that, and some have mentioned mass transit and other ways to address that.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Ms. GRANGER. Thank you.
Mr. PETRI. Representative Kelly, did you
Mrs. KELLY. Thank you.
I would like to just explore for a minute the issue of congestion that is cited in your testimony. Mr. Quinn brought that up also. You say that you feel congestion is the cause of aggressive driving, and yet my particular area that has had two really violent examples of aggressive behavior is not a particularly congested urban area. We're suburban, exurban, and that's exactly where theit was in farmland where this wonderful school administrator was shot, albeit it on an interstate. We don't know. Nobody has ever found that man's killer.
I wonder if congestion is the problem or if there is something else going on here.
Dr. MARTINEZ. We think that congestion is not the only
Mrs. KELLY. Anybody can answer that.
Dr. MARTINEZ. I'm sorry. We've not said that congestion is the only problem. We think it's one of the three major factors we find in particular. These are multi-factorial, which often go with society, itself.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The three areas we think is just the entireI guess the continued focus should be on include number one, that we are independent and free on the road and that someone impinging on that is impinging on. We take it personal if someone cuts in front of us or something and it escalates.
Number two is that there has been a tremendous decrease in enforcement, in spite of the rapid rise of travel. I mean, I think it is beginning to reverse a little bit, but there was a very long period of time where you could go and not see someone on the highway to hold someone accountable, so the laws of the road became somewhat garbled.
The third thing is congestion, we believe, which increases the stress in individuals and creates this ''all against all'' attitude to get off.
All three of those have been found to be contributing factors. I would not say that any one factor is the central factor. I don't think you'd be able to find that.
Mrs. KELLY. Did I understand you to say, though, that you felt one thing that we could almost instantly do is try to put more of a police presence on the roads, even if it's just a police car there showing the flag, so to speak?
Dr. MARTINEZ. That's enough. Some places actually have cardboard cutouts that they put on the highway which slows people down. I actually came into work today, and I wasit was terrible coming to work today, and all of the sudden there was a police officer on a motorcycle coming through, and people were about as nice as you could be to each other for about 2 minutes as he went through, and then all the sudden reverted back to the ''all against all'' attitude.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Someone says the definition of a good driver is someone who just saw the police pull over someone else. That may be true. That's not the way to solve the problem, though, but it's one way for us to begin to do it in conjunction with things such as public information and education. And we think you can't have a cop everywhere so you should look at technologies that help extend that.
People tend to respect what you inspect, what they're held accountable for. That I think would help get rid of this attitude of ''all against all'' that we're dealing with now.
Mrs. KELLY. I just want to approach this one more here. Would you say thatnotably outside of Boston I have been caught in the traffic jams outside of Boston, New York, Washington. They're all sort of the same. It's bumper-to-bumper and stop-and-go when everybody is going to work at the same time. I have a son who works in Boston. He finds he can get on a bikeway and drive a long way, about ten miles, faster than he can go by car.
I find that I have friends here who commute into D.C. who have about the same problems.
Would you say that alternative transportation might be one way to relieve some of this congestion to help us ease this aggressive behavior?
Dr. MARTINEZ. Absolutely. I think that's a growing debate about how we design our ability to commute so that we don't force everyone to get into a car and then overcrowd the highways.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Some places have tremendous bicycle routes, separated lanes so it's safe for the bicyclist. And when you do that you get people taking alternative forms of transportation. Things such as mass transit and bus lines also help out, but you've got to remember that to do that you've got to have a focus on it. Once you get off the bus you have to have a safe way for pedestrians.
So we're focusing as a department on intermodalism, so things connect better. We're focusing as a department on more bicycle and pedestrian trails. And I think you're going to see, as people focus on this, if they're given alternatives to not being on the road, you'll see more and more of that.
Mrs. KELLY. Thank you very much.
Dr. MARTINEZ. Thank you.
Mrs. KELLY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
I haven't used my 5 minutes for questioning, but I will yield some of it to Mr. Horn, who had one more question.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HORN. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. When I asked the chairman for one more question, he graciously complied. You've touched a little bit on it since then. But I was recalling that in 1991 I was in Vienna, Austria, and they have, of course, the photography and the checking of speed, and you just get a ticket in the mail when you're exceeding that.
I was interested when you said you're on the beltway going to have some experiments, because I think that's exactly what's needed to be done.
I think back in California when you drive the Central Valley and Interstate 5, which goes from Mexico to Canada, you get very high speed limits there. Of course, they have signs up that California Highway Patrol has helicopters, air surveillance, and so forth. The sheriffs often put that up. That's a very useful technique.
But what I'm thinking of is, in this age of tremendous aerial photography, satellite photography, thin, tall towers, if we could see Khrushchev smoking a cigar in the Kremlin Square back in 1964, we've got even more advanced now.
I just wonder if you've thought of thin towers every once in a while with those sensors being adjusted for erratic patterns on the freeway, and then zeroing in on closeups on that license plate. Is that possible to do in this day and age?
Has any thought been given in ISTEA or anything else to try a little of this in some areas of the country?
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. MARTINEZ. Well, we have a large grant program coming out in the fall of this year to look at aggressive driving and look not only at some of the enforcement issues but some of the technology issues.
We are currently working with law enforcement to look at ways to extend their reach and do it in a way, though, that is acceptable to society because it really focuses on the person who is really out of line.
Right now you have the red light running campaigns, which really automatically take a picture of your car license platenot you, but your license plate when it runs through the red light. There is actually a program in, I think, California where they've looked at railroad crossings where people willthe gates are down, the train is coming, and they'll drive around the crossings and they'll get their photographs taken. I've been surprised to see some bus drivers, municipal bus drivers doing that with a load of people on board.
So again, going back to doing the technology, we are looking at that. We are looking at it also in some of the cities. Some of the cities are putting that in and testing that.
Yes, we've gotten that technology from looking around the world at what they've done to try to address some of these issues.
Mr. HORN. Well, we could have one satellite that's shared by the 50 States and call it the ''Slaterite,'' or something like that.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [Laughter.]
Mr. RECHT. If I could just add one item there, sir, just to clarify, it is currently an allowed use of Federal funds by the States to put these devices in. Sometimes the States have to pass laws to deal with some privacy issues and the like that occur, but we've been noticing State after State taking care of these matters and moving forward, so it's something they could do right now if they want to.
Dr. MARTINEZ. I want to point out, by the way, Phoenix tomorrow will kick off an aggressive driving program, and we've got great relationships with, I think, Maryland, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and others that are doing programs that have different mixes.
We hope to take the best practices and use that to help law enforcement extend their reach.
By the way, with the funds we haveI think Mr. Recht makes a good pointlaw enforcement does buy some of the technology using funds that we give through the States to them.
Mr. HORN. I must say, when we have 40,000 or 50,000 a year killed on the highways, I don't think there's much right of privacy to potential killers and actual killers.
Dr. MARTINEZ. I appreciate your thoughts.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. PETRI. Mr. Rahall?
Mr. RAHALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I have just one quick last question, and you've been very kind with your time, Dr. Martinez. I notice here that the phone companies are now putting out some public campaigns, smooth operator brochure here, which is very commendable. But obviously they must be feeling some of the heat of attacks against the use of cellular phones as being a cause of aggressive driving or cause of accidents. And certainly they do provide a measure of security and a measure of enforcement, as well, and perhaps later we'll hear from law enforcement personnel how often cellular phones have been responsible for ticketing or in a positive way.
But do those benefits of security and enforcement outweigh the negatives of cellular phones?
Dr. MARTINEZ. That's an excellent questionone which I think really needs to be looked at from both sides.
The study that came out recentlyfirst off, we're doing research to look and see what the effects of cellular phones are with driving. Whether it's the cellular phone or just the distraction issue is two separate things.
There was a recent article about fast food, dashboard dining and driving, and about the peoplehow they're actually designing food so you can eat and drive.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
This whole idea of distraction is something that feeds into our ability of how seriously do we really take driving. It is a big skill that takes your attention, but we have other things for distractions. And cars are being designed more and more with cup holders that heat and cool your foods, and they have VCRs being built in cars, so we have to really, I think, be more focused on that.
Mr. RAHALL. Cosmetic companies will be out pretty soon with the way you put on makeup while you're driving.
Dr. MARTINEZ. I watch them on the highways do that, and shave, too, I must say.
Just let me point out that the study that got a lot of press about cellular phones, had interesting things people don't look at those. I read that study. I knew one of the authors a student of ours at Stanford University. No one was on a phone at the time of a crash, except one person might have been, so that was one issue. The study looked at the 5 minutes before and after the phone call.
Number two, there was no difference between hand-held and hands-free sets.
So there is still a lot more to learn about the cellular phone. But in looking at that, we think, though, we don't want to miss the big issue of distraction. You're supposed to be driving the car.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Secondly, the industry has been helping us to use those cellular phones to report aggressive driving, which is why we've had those messages put out to over 20 million cellular phone subscribers. We think that there is an important role for people who have phones to be also educated about the proper use of those phones and what you can and cannot do while driving the car.
Mr. RAHALL. Thank you.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you. Thank you, Dr. Martinez.
Dr. MARTINEZ. Thank you, Mr. Petri.
Mr. PETRI. We appreciate your coming here and answering questions and testifying today on a very important subject.
Dr. MARTINEZ. Thank you, sir.
Mr. PETRI. We're going to combine panel two and panel three in the interest of time, and ask all four people plus those accompanying them to come forward.
The panels consist of: Dr. David K. Willis, who is the president of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety; Ms. Lisa Sheikh, founder and executive director of Citizens Against Speeding and Aggressive Driving, who is accompanied by Brenda Fraser, who is the director of development, Citizens Against Speeding and Aggressive Driving, and Mr. Adam Kaufman, the director of legislative affairs of that organization.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
And panel three will be joining them as well: Captain Robert Beach, who is the commander of traffic division, Fairfax County Police Department smooth operator program, accompanied by Officer Bob Walls of the Fairfax County Police Department; and Dr. Arnold Nerenberg, who is a traffic psychologist and director of mental health services in Whittier, California.
It will take us just a minute to get ourselves organized, and then to proceed.
Now that you've poured your glass of water, Dr. Willis, why don't you begin? Thank you very much for being here.
As all the panelists know, your full statements will be made a part of the record. We encourage you to summarize them in 5 minutes.
TESTIMONY OF DAVID K. WILLIS, PRESIDENT, AAA FOUNDATION FOR TRAFFIC SAFETY; LISA SHEIKH, FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CITIZENS AGAINST SPEEDING AND AGGRESSIVE DRIVING, ACCOMPANIED BY BRENDA FRASER, DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, AND ADAM KAUFMAN, DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS; CAPTAIN ROBERT BEACH, COMMANDER, TRAFFIC DIVISION, FAIRFAX COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT, SMOOTH OPERATOR PROGRAM, ACCOMPANIED BY CLIFF SHARP, MEMBER, TRAFFIC SAFETY UNIT, AND OFFICER BOB WALLS, FAIRFAX COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT; AND DR. ARNOLD NERENBERG, TRAFFIC PSYCHOLOGIST AND DIRECTOR OF MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES, WHITTIER, CA
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WILLIS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee. I'm David K. Willis, president of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a charitable research and educational organization affiliated with the American Automobile Association.
I very much appreciate this invitation to testify concerning our recent research on the problem of violent aggressive driving. I hereby request that our report, ''Aggressive Driving, Three Studies,'' be made part of the record along with my written testimony.
Mr. PETRI. Without objection, they both will be.
Mr. WILLIS. Our study was conducted by Mizell & Company International Security, a Bethesda, Maryland-based firm which specializes in tracking crime and terrorism trends.
Before describing the report's findings, I need to emphasize an important caveat regarding this research. Our study is not a census of the aggressive driving problem; it is a snapshot of the most violent kinds of aggressive driving incidents. ''Road Rage'' has become the most popular term for describing this form of outlandish behavior.
For every incident of road rage identified in our study, there are probably tens of thousands other less violent, but still scary, aggressive driving encounters. However, these more mundane instances never show up in newspaper and police reports, the sources of information used by Mizell. Thus, the incidents of road rage identified in our study are but a microcosm of the full extent of the aggressive driving problem in America today.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Mizell research uncovered 10,037 incidents of violent aggressive driving between January 1, 1990, and August 31, 1996, the period studied. At least 218 men, women, and children were killed as a result of these incidents, and another 12,610 were injured.
The problem is national in scope, not just a phenomenon of congested urban areas, and the problem has been getting progressively worse, growing at a compounded annual growth rate of nearly 7 percent throughout the 1990s.
The majority of violent aggressive drivers are males age 18 to 26, though persons up to age 75 have been involved. Females were identified as aggressors in only 4 percent of the violent incidents reviewed by Mizell.
The so-called ''reasons'' for traffic disputes leading to road rage can be incredibly trivial. That means that motorists are increasingly being shot, stabbed, beaten, and run over for totally inane reasons such as: ''he cut me off,'' ''she wouldn't let me pass,'' ''nobody gives me the finger,'' '' he was playing the radio too loud so I shot him,'' ''the bastard kept honking and honking his horn,'' ''she was driving too slowly,'' ''they kept tailgating me,'' ''I would have never shot him if he hadn't rear-ended me.''
The great American orator, Robert Ingersoll, once opined that ''anger blows out the lamp of the mind.'' That's exactly what happens to violent aggressive drivers.
Vehicles and firearms are the principal weapons of choice during outbursts of road rage. In 35 percent of the incidents reviewed for our study, a vehicle was used as a weapon. In 37 percent, a firearm was used. But almost any conceivable kind of weapon can be wielded by enraged drivers.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
So what's to be done about all this? How do we create a more civilized driving environment?
The AAA Foundation and others have been offering drivers tips on how to get a grip on their tempers and how to deal with other angry or aggressive drivers. These tips are discussed at length in my written testimony.
Ultimately, however, it will take strong law enforcement to reduce this problem. Happily, that is starting to happen. State police agencies in Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia have campaigns underway to crack down on aggressive drivers and are urging the public to help by calling # 77 on their cellular phones to report such drivers. The # 77 concept is a good one that we would like to see adopted nationwide.
The 24 States that don't already have some kind of ''drive right/pass left'' law also need a wake-up call. The absence of such statutes is an open invitation not only to rude behavior by ''left lane hogs,'' but also to tragedy on the road caused by other drivers enraged by the practice.
But aggressive driving doesn't have to end in mayhem for it to be a legitimate public policy concern. An April, 1996, poll by AAA Potomac indicated that aggressive driving was the number one traffic safety concern, cited by 40 percent of the respondents. In a follow-on poll in May of this year, aggressive driving was still the number one concern, this time cited by 44 percent of those polled. It's time to get serious about dealing with this growing traffic safety problem.
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Ms. SHEIKH. Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, good morning. My name is Lisa Sheikh, and I'm joined here today by Brenda Fraser and Adam Kaufman, two of the many residents of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area whom I've met since early February. It was then that I first posted flyers around town announcing the formation of a new grassroots organization called ''Citizens Against Speeding and Aggressive Driving.''
I came to Washington a little over 2 years ago to work as a researcher and writer on child safety issues. Over time, I found myself increasingly distracted by what seemed a grossly overlooked source of danger for childrenaggressive driving.
My intuition was confirmed when I learned that car crashes are the leading cause of death for children over five and the leading cause of long-terms disability for all age groups.
Each day I personally witness drivers traveling twice the speed limit on city streets, running red lights, weaving in and out of traffic, tailgating, and, in the most extreme instances, challenging each other for space on the roads.
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I read the newspaper with horror every time another violent crash occurred in the city or on the Beltway, and talked with victims whose stories confirmed my worst fear: that deadly driving behavior is going largely unpunished in our society.
Eventually, the answer became clear to me. Citizens needed to organize to combat the problem of speeding and aggressive driving, just as they did with drunk driving in the 1980s. Police and traffic safety experts with whom I spoke seemed ready and willing to do everything in their power to confront this epidemic, but they needed our help.
Mr. KAUFMAN. Since the organization had its first meeting this year in February, Lisa has met many residents like me who feel exactly how she doesthat the risk we are encountering daily on our roads is unacceptable.
We know that the Transportation Committee spends millions of dollars to investigate the cause of major plane crashes, like TWA Flight 800. You do this because you know that the public won't accept an unreasonable amount of risk when flying. What we're saying today is that 40,000 deaths and 3.5 million injuries each year on our Nation's roads is not acceptable. We will no longer dismiss these casualties as merely the cost of doing business.
We agree with Representative Norton and others here today who said that we need to study this and we need to do something about it.
The members of our organization are people of all ages from all walks of life who have come together for one reason: safer roads. We envision a society where people respect traffic laws and make safe driving a priority every time they get behind the wheel of a car; where people feel safe and relaxed driving to and from work every day; where drivers can obey the speed limit without being honked at or tailgated; where children can comfortably cross the street at an intersection without fear of being hit by a red light runner; and families can walk their dogs, ride their bikes, and visit with their neighbors without being driven indoors by speeding cars.
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Our mission is to be a citizen group helping other experts and other organizations to reach citizens, to slow down traffic, curb aggressive driving, and significantly reduce auto-related deaths and injuries.
To accomplish this mission, we've identified a number of strategies. Most importantly among these, we aim to increase public awareness of the dangers of speeding and aggressive driving, petition local governments for increased resources to support strong enforcement of traffic laws, and promote city and transportation planning that makes public safety a first priority.
Ms. SHEIKH. But we are not traffic safety experts. We have, therefore, been fortunate to find an excellent partner in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They've come to our meetings, which in the beginning were held on Saturdays. They've provided us with data to help us understand the problem. And they've given us educational materials to use in our public awareness campaigns, which began on the mall during the 4th of July weekend and will continue this Sunday across the street from the National Zoo.
We've turned to them with questions, sometimes four and five times a day, and they've answered all of our calls promptly.
As we proceed, we ask the members of this subcommittee to consider the essential role that NHTSA plays in promoting traffic safety.
On behalf of Citizens Against Speeding and Aggressive Driving, we thank the members of this subcommittee for holding this hearing and inviting us to come and testify.
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Ms. Fraser, did you want to make a brief statement?
Ms. FRASER. Yes. Chairman and Members of Congress, staff members, and guests, thank you for allowing me and others from Citizens Against Speeding and Aggressive Driving to present testimony here today.
My name is Brenda Fraser of Maryland, but my name could be any name, any citizen of the United States. I come before you today to tell my story and to ask the committee to continue its efforts to understand aggressive driving and speeding. It is the behavior of many drivers who are taking real human lives by the hundreds every day and by the thousands every year.
My mother was one of those human lives. Her name was Alma Fraser. A vivacious, healthy, and energetic woman, my mother had spent the last 20 years of her life in traffic safety. She was well known in the State of New Hampshire, where she taught driver's education at St. Paul's School and worked at the Motor Vehicle Administration. As a teenager, I helped her prepare for her driver's ed classes. Little did I know then that some day the greatest lesson in road safety would be the very loss of her life due to an aggressive and speeding driver.
On a bright, sunny day just this past October my mother was visiting me for a few days. We headed south into Washington, D.C., from suburban Maryland on a road not very far from my home. As we proceeded down Georgia Avenue near the Capital Beltway, a vehicle heading northbound came over the median strip and struck us head-on. We saw the windshield of the oncoming car as a sudden flash. After metal crushed metal and my car rotated sideways, a second car hit me on the driver's side, pushing my car 38 feet down the road.
Page 92 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Like having a loaded weapon, a speeding, reckless driver used his car to seriously injure me and kill my mother. He drove his car in a negligent manner, endangering all other drivers around him, not just us. An off-duty policeman was also injured in the second vehicle, and many more people could have been injured or killed. I could have been killed if not for the grace of God. In fact, rescue workers thought the driver of my car was a sure fatality. They had to cut me out to remove me, and, unbelievably, I was conscious throughout the whole ordeal.
I held my mother's hand for the last time of my life while waiting for the rescue workers. I never saw her face again, heard her laughter, or felt the warmth of her touch.
My mother was a vital and healthy woman. She had six children, 34 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren. She also had a brother and an ailing sister, whom she cared for every day. Now my aunt is without a caretaker and I am without a mother. Many, many people have been affected by her death.
My own grief is compounded with physical injuries I have to live with every day, and I may never regain the physical condition I had prior to the accident.
The speeding driver was charged with manslaughter, but in the State of Maryland and in many other places the case is presented to a grand jury. However, grand juries rarely convict a speeder who kills. Unfortunately, the members of the citizen jury identify with the speeder. They can imagine themselves driving above the speed limit and they can imagine changing lanes at a high rate of speed without directionals. They can imagine losing control of their car. But what they cannot imagine is the permanent effects of that behavior. They cannot imagine the grief.
Page 93 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Crash victims and families of crash victims are not in the courtroom. They cannot present testimony, despite the human evidence of a crash. That information is left out.
The driver who killed my mother is still driving the roads, possibly endangering others. He did not lose his license to drive, his license to kill.
After the grand jury, the case went to traffic court. In a room full of traffic law violators of every age and every description, most people charged told elaborate stories to a judge, who often reduced the fines and points. It was a complete farce. No one respected the law and no one respected the proceedings. My case was never even presented to a judge. The negligent driver left the courtroom after only moments there and decided to pay the ticketsno apologies and no signs of regret.
I have since learned of many more cases where a driver who has killed does not get charged and continues to drive on the roads.
I ask the committee to consider my family and the hundreds of crash victims and survivors who are not here today to tell their story. I ask that you consider the other citizens out there who, through no fault of their own, are victims of reckless driving, speed, and negligence, as demonstrated in this case.
I ask you and I urge you, the honorable Members of Congress, to study and recommend how we can prevent further needless deathsdeaths caused by careless behavior and road violence. We are all guilty of the death of those killed on American roads, because no one is safe to drive to the grocery store, to school, to church, to work, or to visit the Nation's capital with one's mother.
Page 94 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
My mother died suddenly and tragically, and I do not wish other mothers to die because we did nothing to stop speeding drivers.
Thank you for your time.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you for your statement.
Captain BEACH. Mr. Chairman, thank you for giving me the opportunity and for bringing this panel together for a look at something that we and many of us in law enforcement believe will be the number one problem that faces us in the area of traffic enforcement in the next decade.
I'm joined by Sergeant Cliff Sharp, a member of my traffic safety unit, and MPO Bob Wall.
During the last year, the metropolitan region has been plagued with what the public calls ''aggressive drivers.'' The definition of these drivers can be interpreted many ways; however, driver inattention, disregarding traffic controls, speeding, not wearing seat belts, driving under the influence, and general reckless driving are just some of the major areas that must be looked at.
The fast pace of the metropolitan region has fostered aggressive behavior behind the wheel over the years and now has come to the forefront of the public through the media.
Page 95 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Fairfax County Police Department, with the assistance of Federal grant money provided by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, has teamed up with other area law enforcement agencies and other private sector corporations to conduct a smooth operator program. Smooth operator is a comprehensive driver awareness education and enforcement program. This campaign will be a year-long effort designed to identify specific behaviors which have statistically been proven to cause traffic crashes and congestion.
Smooth operator will encourage motorists to be smart, responsible drivers by educating the public regarding these driving issues.
The program will also inform the public about law enforcement efforts to target the aggressive driver, that person who will not learn from what we're trying to teach them.
The project's objectives are to identify the top causes of crashes and injuries and fatalities in the Washington capital area, to develop a public information and education and enforcement campaign targeting and identifying those issues, to enlist the aid of local media and corporate agencies to provide manpower and support for the campaign, to coordinate and execute community events which bring together the components and agencies involved with smooth operator, to aggressively enforce local laws and impact those that refuse to be taught.
The Washington metropolitan area law enforcement agencies have joined together to educate the public about the dangers of aggressive actions behind the wheel of motor vehicles. This education has been followed by enforcement efforts, targeting violations that are and can lead to aggressive driving incidents.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
A small working group of law enforcement officers and public and private groups has been meeting to determine the elements of this campaign. For the smooth operator program, the definition of aggressive driving that we have come up with is a combination of unsafe and unlawful driving actions that show a disregard for safety.
Area law enforcement officers have been using this definition to target offenders throughout the year during four enforcement waves. Officers have been targeting speeding, improper passing, following too close, improper lane changing, running red lights, disregarding stop signs and signals, passing loading and unloading school buses, DWI, failure to wear safety belts, and improper and no use of child safety seats.
During these waves, this regional enforcement and the community has worked together to aggressively enforce these violations. To date, nearly 30,000 violations have been cited by the 13 regional law enforcement agencies. These 30,000 violations were only covered in 14 days.
The third wave of the enforcement, by the way, will begin this coming Monday.
These coordinated efforts are only part of the enforcement. We can only estimate how many summons have been issued during the off-wave enforcement activities. During the off-wave weeks, the agencies have been continuing their enforcement efforts, targeting these violations. They have pinpointed locations in many problem areas in each of their own jurisdictions for the enforcement effort.
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Each agency has continued random enforcement efforts during the off-wave time to illustrate that aggressive driving will not be tolerated.
Enforcement data for each agency has been collected and reports generated to help the region evaluate this problem. You have copies of some of those reports.
The smooth operator program has also joined forces with the national air bag safety campaign and the Virginia smart, safe, and sober campaign to assist with the call President Clinton has made to increase safety belt use and child safety use to 85 percent nationwide.
Law enforcement agencies across the United States have joined in this effort to aggressively enforce safety belts and child passenger safety laws. These laws, buckle up and securing our children correctly and safely in seats, is the best way to protect ourselves from the aggressive driver and the damage that he may cause.
In conclusion, the answer is simple but not easy: joining together as a team, with the political and financial support needed, law enforcement can make a difference.
We are the leaders in the community in the area of education and enforcement. Aggressive education combined with enforcement can change these national trends. Law enforcement agencies work together nationwide, and that's the key.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Page 98 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Dr. NERENBERG. I'm Dr. Arnold Nerenberg. Mr. Chairman and Members of Congress, I want to thank you for this opportunity to be with you here today.
I'm defining road rage as one driver expressing anger at another driver for something he or she did on the road. The expression could take many forms, such as yelling, obscene gestures, pressing the horn, flicking headlights up and down, spitting, hostile stares, retaliation such as cutting off or tailgating, throwing objects, etc. It can also include felonious behavior such as the firing of a gun, ramming of the vehicle as a weapon, brandishing a gun, and stalking with the intention of causing physical harm.
I consider road rage to be a mental disorder of the adjustment reaction type, and it involves clearly expressing the anger directly to the other driver at least twice a year. It causes psychological and physiological distress, and increases the risk of physical harm, such as being shot or rammed, and is a distraction from safe driving. Furthermore, there could be financial consequences.
Road annoyance is having negative thoughts towards another driver or verbalizing the negativity, such as muttering, in a manner that is not communicated to the other driver. Road annoyance is normal. Road rage needs to be distinguished from aggressive driving. Aggressive driving includes speeding and weaving in and out of traffic. The aggressive driver may or may not be angry at others. Conversely, a road rager may be driving safely and pull alongside another drive and make an obscene gesture.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In a study that we have conducted, the 585 subjects that we interviewed, basically on sidewalks and at malls and so forth, were reporting about their own driving, what they say about themselves. In this study we have determined that 53 percent of the population have a road rage disorder.
The estimated episodes per year from this, given that the average was 27 times per yearthat was the average number that each one said I've expressed these behaviors 27 times per year on the average. If you look out there, we have a minimum of 125 million drivers on the road. What that means is we have 1.788 billion instances of road rage behavior per year, almost equal for men and women.
This is again road rage. I'm not talking aggressive driving; I'm talking road rage as I've defined it here.
The kinds of causes in the context of aggressive impulses, endangerment was the number one cause. If someone feels endangered, such as being cut off or tailgated, or feels that they would have been in an accident, that's the most likely cue for somebody to go into road rage reaction. Others include being slowed down, seeing somebody just breaking the rules, and other people's anger directed at us, plus someone taking the parking space. These are the traffic configurations that can trigger a road rage reaction.
The cures? First we need media attention. Road ragers need to admit that they have the program and, quite frankly, road ragers do not consider road rage to be a problem. Victims of road rage, though, are very concerned. And there has to be a commitment to overcoming it.
Page 100 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
As a therapist, I use visualization exercises to help people visualize non-aggressive, non-hostile reactions. I encourage people to leave early for their destination, to remember their own errors so they can be more tolerant of other people's.
Interestingly enough, some of the main road ragers are courteous drivers, themselves, and they become enraged when other people are not courteous.
We talk about remembering their own errors, having compassion for others, and ultimately what we want to do is to reduce road rage to road annoyance. Road rage is a disorder; road annoyance is when a person has negative thoughts and muttering to themselves, but it's not communicated to the other driver.
I also use road rage therapy in the car where, when it's safe to do so, I have the person scream out, and they see their own heart starting to pound more rapidly, and they realize, also, this is really silly. That's actually part of a paradoxical intention.
At a societal level, the DMV needs to issue a sign of apology. Many road rage incidents can be dissipated if people just had a way of apologizing, and apologizing in such a manner that's not confused with an obscene gesture. This should be required in DMV manuals, driver's education classes, part of remedial school programs. And we need Federal programs where policemen are trained to give classes to high schools going into the causes and cures of road rage.
Thank you for this opportunity to address you.
Page 101 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. PETRI. Thank you all for your testimony.
Maybe I could start by asking one or two brief questions.
Dr. Nerenberg, you distinguish between aggressive driving and a disorder you call road rage.
Dr. NERENBERG. Yes.
Mr. PETRI. But one can lead to another, I guess. Aggressive driving can evoke a road rage response, I would assume, so the two are not totally unrelated.
Dr. NERENBERG. Well, you can have an aggressive driver who is cutting somebody dangerously off and he's really angry at them, or you can have somebody who just likes to speed along and is in a rush and he's not mad at anybody. He's not angry.
So, from a psychological point of view, I'm using the road rage as a more psychologically meaningful unit of behavior for us to study and correct from the kind of work that I'm doing.
On the other hand, you could have a road rager not cutting off anybody, not speeding, pull nicely alongside of you, and blow your brains out, but in the meantime he's not doing anything wrong with his vehicle. It's what he's doing inside his car that is a problem.
Page 102 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PETRI. We're getting into more and more high-tech cars. Pretty soon you can talk to your car and it will start itself up, or one thing or another, with voice recognition chips. Would it be helpful if drivers start screaming and hollering, that the car would say, ''Slow down. Calm down. Stop engaging in this sort of behavior''? Could we get a little built-in counseling, or don't you think that's an option that really would be effective if we could do it?
Dr. NERENBERG. There are no studies on that. Perhaps it would help. But certainly people need to say to themselves, ''It's just not worth it.''
And people who have been involved, particularly in felonious behaviors, and have been incarcerated, that's their reaction. It's just not worth it. People have been in accidents, who have been involved in road rage, universally will say, ''Hey, it's just not worth it.'' And so that needs to be an important factor of helping people go from road rage to road annoyance.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Mr. RAHALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Fraser, as a victim of aggressive driving, what civil or criminal penalties would you deem necessary when reprimanding such offenders? For example, Ms. Sheikh, in your testimony you stated that aggressive driving is equally hazardous as drunk driving. When considering appropriate punitive terms, should we be treating the aggressive driver in the same punitive terms that we treat drunk drivers?
Page 103 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Ms. FRASER. In my opinion, yes. The laws, the reckless driving laws, have not been reviewed or updated. They vary widely from State to State. And often, if it is a first-time offense, the maximum is not issued.
In my case, the four tickets carried a cumulative point of 13 points, in which case the driver would have lost his license after 12 points, but because he voluntarily paid the tickets, the points were reduced to four. The fine was reduced to $70 for one of the tickets, $65 for another ticket. I mean, that's hardly punitive.
Ms. SHEIKH. I think what we have found in just the brief time that we have been studying this issue is that the reckless driving laws are not anywhere near as severe as the drunk driving penalties, and, frankly, we're going to approach it from the standpoint of we don't care if you're drunk or sober, we want you to obey the laws, and we think it's very serious, and we think that infractions should be penalized severely.
Mr. RAHALL. Captain Beach, would you wish to comment on that?
Captain BEACH. I would. I would like to say that Virginia took a step this year and put in a law that is called ''felonious or vehicle maiming.'' Interestingly enough, we had our first case of this. It will be a serious offense. It is a felony. It does not requirethe manslaughter, of course, requires that someone die. In this case, it requires that someone be seriously injured and that that injury is life-threatening but doesn't cause death but will cause a substantial reduction in the person's capability. They will not be able to return to normal, as Ms. Fraser has spoken of just a moment ago.
Page 104 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
We had our first case this past weekend. We're aggressively seeking that case. We served some search warrants and things yesterday, and we're aggressively going after this case, to be probably one of the first in the State. We'll see what the court does with it when it gets there.
But we have discussed this many times among law enforcement, getting the cases before the court, courts being backlogged and just full of traffic-type of offenses.
In listening to the testimony this morning and listening, I could not help but reflect over the fact that I think one of the reasons we are at this position that we're in is the fact that we have many times looked at aggressive driving as kind of a joke. We talk about the aggressive cab driver and the aggressive bus driver and we laugh at it. That has kind of been the principle.
One of the things that the doctor's study showed was that people that are aggressive drivers many times learn it from their parents. It's something that they see modeled before them. It is another reason why the talk that I've heard this morning is very encouraging about the driver training program and those type of things.
Fairfax County, fortunately, years ago started a traffic safety in-school program where we put a traffic safety officer in every school in Fairfax County, starting in the first grade, talking to them about traffic safety issues.
We have, interestingly enough, an 83 percent seat belt use in Fairfax County. That covers all vehicles, including pickup trucks, and is well above the national average. We have a reduction in alcohol-related accidents.
Page 105 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I think some of the models that we have of getting in the schools early and starting early is an important point.
One other point is, though, that we need to keep that up. Aggressive driving can be addressed if we get started with kids. It's going to take as long as it took alcohol-related and seat belt issues. It's going to take time. It's going to take the effort and the money, folks. It's going to take money.
Our smooth operator program, this is the first year. We'd like to run that. That's going to be a program that is going to take 4 or 5 years. We've got to have money to do that.
Mr. RAHALL. Thank you.
I have more questions, but maybe I'll ask them on a second round.
Mr. PETRI. Very good.
Mr. BACHUS. Thank you.
I think we'velet's start out by I think we can all agree that road rage is real. I mean, it isI've written down here ''prevalent.'' We would all agree with that. Aggressive driving really is, I think, maybe the most common form of driving today. Would you all disagree with that?
Page 106 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Captain BEACH. Not at all.
Mr. BACHUS. It's wide-spread. It's cultural.
Captain, you said something that I think we ought to all realize: it's being taught. It's being taught today. I mean, the most common form of driver education is not in a driver ed class; it's what we teach our children and those that drive with us, and that's aggressive driving.
Captain BEACH. I agree with you, sir, and the fact is that, unfortunately, our driver ed programs have not kept up. We do try to kind of teach the mechanics and the graduated license process. All of those things are things that we can use to try to change the culture that you talked about earlier and just what you're describing.
We have to understand there's not a quick fix to this, either.
Mr. BACHUS. If it is being taught, it's out there, it's prevalent, it's killing people, as we alland we can all cite examples, I think. If you can't cite an example, you don't drive.
Now, I think second is what we've talked about, it is a form of violence. I think that we need to accept that. And then it's something that we can't tolerate in our society.
Page 107 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, if we do that, let me ask you this. I'm going to ask what I think is a hard question. I've been listening. I've heard: following too closely, going to fastand, you know, what is too fast? I realize that going above the speed limit is too fast, but I've seen the description also as passing, weaving in and out of traffic, flashing headlights. That's moving towards aggressionovertaking and then passing on the right, cutting in front.
Now, I'm going to say that that is the most prevalent form of aggressive behavior. But let me ask you this. I wrote this down: how do we get past this?
I'm going to submit to you that the majority of drivers will do that under certain circumstances. The majority will weave, and it's the minority that will block the fast lane.
I'm saying I think it's the majority that will do that under most circumstances and it's the minority that blocks the fast lane. And I'm not saying that's right, that that justifies it, but what about that minority? I mean, isn't thatand I don't think particularly some of our elderly citizens are being passively aggressive. I've heard that. I think they're justbut what aboutI mean, we have laws about weaving, we have laws against all this other stuff, but I did hear that we have laws that you drive right/pass left. I mean, are weis that part of the solution?
Mr. WILLIS. I think it's definitely part of the solution. As I mentioned in my testimony, there are 24 States that do not have drive right/pass left laws. There are only 26 States that do, which means in those 24 States basically you can sit out there and poke along at the speed limit, or I guess even below the speed limit, in the left lane, and obviously that absolutely enrages other drivers. In the work we've done, it's one of the top three irritants causing people to lose their tempers.
Page 108 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. BACHUS. And by the definition I've heard this morning, it causes the majority of drivers to exhibit aggressive driving behavior.
Ms. SHEIKH. Can I just say something?
Mr. BACHUS. Yes.
Ms. SHEIKH. I've heard this fast lane mentioned several times today, and I'm not aware that there is a fast lane. Even in the passing lane, your speed is not supposed to exceed the posted speed limit.
Mr. BACHUS. But the posted speed limit is sometimes 70 miles an hour.
Ms. SHEIKH. Right. But I think what we're hearing from people is that people are ignoring the speed limits pretty much pervasively now at this point. They don't consider them relevant. They think they're in control of their cars. They think they can go as fast as they are comfortable going. And they get into the left lane to speed.
So if someone is in front of them going
Mr. BACHUS. I understand that, and I think that's maybe a more solvable problem. I mean, if you decide that if someone isbut, you know, what are the police doing? I think they're saying if the speed limit is 70 they're going to ticket everybody at 80.
Page 109 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
But what I guess I'm saying is: what about something that the majority of drivers are goingif someone is going 60 in a 70-mile-an-hour lane, the majority of people are going to exhibit this behavior that we have described here this morning as aggressive. They are going to pass on the right. They are going to weave. That is a form of weaving, is it not? I mean, how do you go 65 in a 70 zone without weaving because someone is going 55?
Captain BEACH. I think the kind of rule of thumb that we try to encourage people is that you drive, whatever the speed limit is, you drive based on the safe conditions.
But let me just touch on something that you said. I think that we need to be careful that we don't try to narrow it down to some sort of simple solution.
Let me tell you, I stopped a guy yesterday for running a red light who was coming back from some errand that he was running. He has not had a traffic ticket in 15 years. I consider him to be a safe driver, from just his actions, but he ran the red light.
The reason he ran the red light is because he wanted to get home, he had some things to do. He pressed the yellow light issue and ran it and ended up passing it on the red.
My instruction to him, as we talked, was to take the next 30 daysand I gave him a ticket and I asked him to keep a copy of it in his car for the next 30 days and look at that ticket and think about his daily driving habits.
Page 110 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Dr. Martinez this morning talked about social and local, and there are personal responsibilities, and the responsibility is that I can't take control of the guy that's driving in the left lane. Boy, I would like to. And in my case I can. But I have to take responsibility for me, and I need to evaluate the next 30 days my driving behavior and see what my driving behavior is and where am I pressing the envelope, get my thoughts back right, and take control of my responsibilities. That's where I think we need to refine it down to the personal level.
Mr. BACHUS. Let me just close by saying this: I don't think any of us are condoning this. I'm just saying that I think when we look at this we need to realize that maybe the majority of American drivers are weavers, and that there isI think we've all observed that sort of passive aggressive driver.
When you do that, you're not condoning. You're not condoning the speeding, the speeder, but it's a fact of life.
Mr. PETRI. Mr. Rahall?
Mr. RAHALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Willis, do you foresee insurance premiums going up as a result of aggressive driving?
Mr. WILLIS. If it results in increased crash rates, obviously you'll see insurance premiums go up.
Page 111 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. RAHALL. Captain Beach, let me ask you one more question. According to your testimony, the smooth operator program proposes to incorporate community efforts in the fight against aggressive driving. Specifically, the program encourages drivers to report witnessed accounts of aggressive driving by dialing pound-77 on their cellular phones.
First, I'd like to ask you, as you may have heard me ask Dr. Martinez, if the advantages of cellular phone use, in your opinion, such as security and reports of aggressive driving, outweigh the negatives that perhaps cellular phones contribute to aggressive driving.
And then the second question is: are there any programs in place that allow the non-cellular phone user to report incidents of aggressive driving?
Captain BEACH. Interestingly enough, sir, thelet me answer your first question. Yes, I think that cellular phones are more positive than they are negative. They provide a great safety net for people that break down, people that have problems on the roadway, that we can get people to them. And most jurisdictions now have some sort of quick dial that allows them to be able to get the information to us.
When people call in aggressive drivers, communications gets those calls out very quickly so that we start looking for that person, and in some cases we actually catch them in the act and some sort of action can be done.
So I think it is a positive thing and we need to do that.
Page 112 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are currently lookingour Board of Supervisors came to the Fairfax County Police Department and started asking us to look at just this issue about the person that seeswhat can they do, the non-cellular person that sees a problem, because aggressive drivingas a matter of fact, our next wave of enforcement, which starts Monday, we're going to move into the communities.
We need to understand that aggressive driving is not just occurring on the interstates, the primary routes. They're occurring in your community or in your neighborhood. There are almost 300,000 stop signs in Fairfax County, of which I know I get calls on at least 100,000 of them every day, somebody wanting a policeman to come and watch their stop sign.
You see that's a difficult thing for us to cover, but we need to make sure that that message gets into the communities also.
So we're looking atthere are some things that will be hindrances to what we do. We've looked at things such as maybe sending post cards to people that we get calls on, but we have to look at that. It's going to be a complicated issue. It, again, is something that's going to take some time and some money to look at a proper way to handle that.
But every jurisdiction has a system that if someone sees it they can report it, and that something will be done. There will be an interest in that call and something done to try to address it.
Mr. PETRI. Mr. Horn?
Page 113 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HORN. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I had to step out for a few minutes to see constituents, and I apologize for that. I was very impressed by your written testimony and what I have heard orally, so I thank all of you from law enforcement and certainly from the Citizens Against Speeding and Aggressive Driving. And, as an AAA member since 1949, I'm proud of what the Foundation is doing. I think that is terrific, that study.
Let me just ask Ms. Fraser, and the terrible tragedy that you've lived through, a couple of questions.
Were you able to file a civil suit against the killer involved?
Ms. FRASER. We have filed, but because of his age and status he has little assets, and he was a high-risk driver with high-risk insurance.
Mr. HORN. Was there any way to sue the State of Maryland for its lack of seeming to care about this situation in terms of its laws, or picket the governor, or picket the Legislature, or what?
Ms. FRASER. It certainly has crossed my mind, because I think Georgia Avenue and the Beltway is a hot zone, and the lack of traffic lights at that area, the merging entrances and exits with absolutely no controls is a very serious problem. They have remedied Connecticut Avenue and the Beltway, but I have not looked to suing the State.
Page 114 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I think this is a pervasive problem with driver behavior. I think we see it in the movies. It's glamorized. Speed is sexy. Speed sells cars. Car commercials promote speed, they promote power. The cars are sold.
The car that hit us was a black sports car and it was one month old.
Mr. HORN. Well, I certainly agree with you on the car commercials. I have decided, myself, that I boycott every one of those that stresses speed. I mean, it's absolutely reckless driving and hazard. They usually use State Highway 1 in California to show how adept the car is at going around the corners. That's one of the great scenic routes of the world. And, of course, it is a very dangerous two-lane road.
So I commend you, and I hope that you will be able to do as much as MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. I think they've done a marvelous job. It's just unfortunate that these tragedies have to occur in decent people's lives by these killers. You have to do what you do, but I think if you can work out the pressure on the Maryland Legislature, other legislatures, people will wake up, and that happened certainly in the case of drunk driving.
Ms. FRASER. Thank you.
Mr. HORN. Thank you for coming.
Mr. PETRI. Are there any other questions?
Page 115 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. PETRI. If not, we'd like to thank you all for your testimony and commend you for developing this citizen organization. We hope increasing awareness will be part of the solution.
This hearing may make a small contribution in that direction, and your testimony certainly does, so thank you all very much.
The next panel is: Dr. Allan F. Williams, senior vice president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety; and Mr. David Snyder, the assistant general counsel of the American Insurance Association, accompanied by Judith Stone, who is president for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
As you both know, your full written statements will be made a part of the record of this hearing, and we encourage you to summarize those statements in 5 minutes, and then we'll beMembers who are here will each have 5 minutes to ask questions during each round of questioning.
I guess the panel will be lead off by Dr. Williams.
TESTIMONY OF ALLAN F. WILLIAMS, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, INSURANCE INSTITUTE FOR HIGHWAY SAFETY; DAVID SNYDER, ASSISTANT GENERAL COUNSEL, AMERICAN INSURANCE ASSOCIATION, ACCOMPANIED BY JUDITH STONE, PRESIDENT, ADVOCATES FOR HIGHWAY AND AUTO SAFETY
Page 116 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WILLIAMS. I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The attention to this problem in recent months might lead us to believe that it is a new threat to law-abiding motorists, but the aggressive driving problem is really an old problem.
I have a headline from ''The Wall Street Journal,'' October 20, 1978, ''Highway Massacre: Nowadays Carnage isn't all Accidental. Guns, Knives, Fists, and Cars Become Drivers' Weapons.'' ''U.S. News and World Report,'' November 12, 1984, ''Trigger Tempers on America's Overcrowded Roads are Leading to Unprecedented Mayhem.'' ''The Wall Street Journal'' again, August 3, 1987, ''Motorist Mayhem: Drivers are Turning Increasingly Violent. Frustrations in Heavy Traffic.''
So this is not a new problem, although it may be getting worse, and we discussed already today some of the reasons for thatthe increased congestion, 50 percent more vehicles on the roads than there were 20 years ago, more traffic congestion as a result.
Most of the media coverage has focused on the egregious examples of aggressive drivingthe shootings, deliberate running other vehicles off the road, and the like. But, fortunately, these types of events are still relatively rare. A lot more common is the aggressive practice of deliberately disregarding traffic control signals. While this kind of everyday aggression does not attract the same degree of media attention, it does contribute substantially to the problem of crashes and injuries, and this is what I want to talk about specifically, the deliberate running of red lights, something that Dr. Martinez and others have mentioned in their testimony.
Page 117 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
We know from studies of urban crash types that the most common event is one where the driver violates a traffic control, and that traffic control is often a red light. These red light running crashes tend to involve more serious injuries than other types of urban crashes, since they often include at least one high-speed vehicle.
We knowI mean, I think everyone knows that the deliberate running of red lights is a common and a serious violation. The Institute has been monitoring red light running at several intersections in the Washington, D.C., area over the last few years by using red light running cameras, and I want to show you one photo of what our red light camera caught at an intersection in Arlington, Virginia.
Here is a vehicle. As you can see, it was going at 61 miles per hour. You can't see the legend from there, but the red light camera indicates 61 miles per hour. The traffic light had been red for a little over 7 seconds when this vehicle went through the intersection. This was in Arlington, Virginia, along Route 50.
This is not as uncommon as you might think. We know the characteristics of red light runners. They're younger, they're less likely to wear seat belts, they have worse driving records than those that have the opportunity to run red lights but do not. And we know that the consequences of red light running can be serious.
Another photo taken by a red light camera, this one in San Francisco, where a Dodge Caravan ran through a red light 5 seconds after it had turned red at 30 miles per hour and hit this taxi.
Page 118 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
There have been several pictures of actual crashes photographed by red light cameras.
We also know that very few red light runners are apprehended through traditional enforcement techniques. There's not enough police manpower to control this problem, and there are certainly safety considerations trying to chase down red light violators in dense urban areas.
Officials in some U.S. communities are starting to use cameras that automatically photograph the licenses of vehicles deliberately driven through red lights. These cameras are connected to the traffic signals, as well as to sensors buried in the roadway. They are triggered to photograph vehicles passing over the sensors after a signal light has been red for a predetermined time so that only unequivocal violations are recorded. The technology is highly accurate and reliable.
Red light cameras have been used extensively in many other countries and are credited with reducing motor vehicle crashes caused by red light running.
Public opinion polls in the United States have revealed that the public here is very supportive of the use of the cameras to enforce against red light running. Red light running is a serious aggressive driving problem, and there is, in this case, an effective way to control it. This is a problem we can do something about.
More extensive use of red light cameras in the United States is needed, I believe, so that law-abiding motorists will be better protected from this all-too-common practice.
Page 119 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I'd be happy to answer questions later on red light running or any other aspects of aggressive driving.
Thank you very much.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you.
Mr. SNYDER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee especially for holding this hearing today and taking time out of your busy schedules to address an issue which, quite obviously, is one of national importance.
I appear today on behalf of the American Insurance Association, but as part of a larger coalition, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, which is made up of consumer, safety, health, law enforcement, insurers, and other organizations working on highway safety at the Federal and State level. And I'm accompanied this morning by Judith Stone, President of Advocates.
It is appropriate, particularly, that this hearing was held today because we know we've got an issue of aggressive driving. It's also appropriate because the latest highway statistics are out, and yet again we see an increase in deaths and serious injuries coming after a number of years, when we were forcing those numbers down.
Page 120 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Basically at this point, Mr. Chairman, we're stalled on the road to highway safety and the challenge today is how can we get things jump started.
You've heard a lot this morning of the definitions of aggressive driving, how much of it is going on, and lots of ideas on what to do about it. One thing that is clear is that, unlike many of the issues you deal with, aggressive driving is a problem for which there are solutions. And there is a key role for Federal leadership. Federal leadership resulted in the declines of deaths and injuries and in the improvement of highway safety in the past, and it is clearly needed now more than ever.
Well, you've heard definitions of the problem. What are some of the solutions? After all, this is a Congressional hearing and a Congressional committee. What can you do within your authority, as representatives of all of us, to address the issue of aggressive driving? We'd like to respond to that in a couple ways.
We belong to a very large coalition of more than 70 groups that has made some suggestions about what to do beyond adequate funding for highways and mass transit.
The Coalition believes the most effective weapons to reduce deaths and injuries on the highways include: adequate resources; increased law enforcement, including wider application of technologyand you've just heard about some of that a minute ago; stronger traffic safety laws; and safer cars.
First, on traffic safety funding, this is clearly one of the most critical weapons we have to respond to aggressive driving. Every Federal dollar spent is increased nine-fold in terms of its savings to our society. And yet over the years the actual funding for Federal highway safety programs, the actual money in terms of buying power has been reduced more than 60 percent.
Page 121 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In addition to supporting the funding recommended by USDOT and the NEXTEA proposal, we urge the consideration of a set-aside of a half cent from the gasoline tax. That would bring about $600 million to play on an issue which has cost the American public more than $150 billion annually.
How would this money be allocated? Well, we suggest money be allocated for a national safety belt enforcement program; and that $150 million be provided for States to enhance enforcement. Clearly one of the things you heard this morning was enforcement, enforcement, enforcement.
In my own city, where I serve as vice mayor, one of the most consistent complaints we had from residents, in addition to dealing with violent street crime, was aggressive driving. We addressed it head on. We hired some additional police officers. We made traffic enforcement a major priority.
The results were that our number of tickets doubled within less than 3 years, and we've seen a marked reduction in grossly overspeed driving and red light running.
Next we urge that some of this additional money be spent to increase the traffic safety grant programs under 402(a), and that $100 million of that be spent for impaired driving programs.
With respect to safety belt use, we're all working on that. Clearly, incentives need to be provided at the State level and carried through for the States and by the States, with incentives from the Federal Government to encourage increased safety belt use and strengthening State safety belt laws. We're all working in many ways to do that.
Page 122 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
We need to achieve passage of strong safety belt laws in every State. We need to provide $150 million for national safety belt enforcement programs. Appeals to do the right thing sometimes don't work in the absence of enforcement.
Next, we need to provide funds to the States for their enhanced enforcement of all traffic laws.
An emphasis on impaired driving clearly needs to be maintained. It's estimated that 41 percent of the total traffic fatalities for this year were alcohol related. In that connection, we urge the enactment of S. 412 and H.R. 981, the Safe and Sober Streets Act of 1997, and we support the Deadly Driver Reduction Act, S. 708, and H.R. 982.
We encourage the use of technology, and that needs to be a major priority here at the Federal level and carried through to the States, and including photo radar and cameras at red lights.
Let me conclude this way: Federal leadership led to the improvements in highway safety that we saw. There's no question that things would be much, much worse without the role that you personally have played, this subcommittee, the larger committee, and the Congress in highway safety in the past, and yet it's very evident that the job is not done. Aggressive driving is an epidemic, it is a problem, it has a solution.
As the unfortunate highway fatality and injury data continue to indicate, your leadership is critically needed at this juncture. We believe that that leadership can be shown primarily through the provision of adequate financial resources, increased law enforcement, stronger safety belt and drunk driving laws, and safer cars.
Page 123 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Advocates thanks the subcommittee for holding this hearing, and we are anxious to continue to work with you to address the issue of aggressive driving and get us back on the road to improving highway safety.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you. Thank you both for your well-prepared testimony. We appreciate your taking time out of your schedules to be here today.
Mr. RAHALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Williams, we've established that aggressive drivers pose a great threat to fellow drivers and pedestrians; however, I think it has been alluded to a number of times, but we've not really considered the role of the overly defensive driver.
Do overly defensive drivers pose a threat to safety?
Mr. WILLIAMS. I think they do. I mean, we all know anecdotes. I don't think there is, you know, any real study of this, but certainly, to the extent that there are people driving at great odds with what the rest of the people are doingyou know, I'm talking about driving excessively slowly or somethingthat is an issue on the highways.
Page 124 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. RAHALL. Let me ask another question. Only 29 States require by law some form of driver's education, usually for people under the age of 18. Are you aware of any studies which compare the number of auto-related accidents in States which required driver's education to those which do not require any form of driver's education? And, if so, from these findings do you believe driver's education programs should become mandatory in every State?
Mr. WILLIAMS. Well, this came up earlier, and, unfortunately, the research evidence from the United States and around the world indicates that driver education programs for young people, as presently constituted, have not made a difference in terms of their subsequent crash involvement compared to other ways of learning how to drive. That's an unfortunate state of affairs, but that's reality.
There are ways that are being tried, as Dr. Hedlund earlier mentioned, to improve driver education programs and to fit it in with graduated licensing so that there's more opportunity to provide education to people as they're becoming more proficient at driving skills. These programs are being tried out now, and hopefully they will have a different level of success.
Mr. RAHALL. So you would wait for the outcome of that before answering the question about mandatory in all States?
Mr. WILLIAMS. I would. Yes. At this time I don't think there is any rationale for making driver education mandatory for the goal of reducing the crash involvement of this population.
Page 125 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. RAHALL. Ms. Stone, would you wish to comment on that?
Ms. STONE. I just would associate myself with the remarks of Dr. Williams. It is unfortunate because it seems to make logical sense that driver ed would help, and it does, I think, have some benefits to the individual. But as far as how it plays out in the crash picture, it doesn't seem to. It's kind of a wash.
Mr. RAHALL. Yes. Mr. Snyder, in your testimony you propose that, with adequate funding, auto safety measures geared towards promoting the use of the safety belts and preventing impaired driving would decrease the number of auto-related injuries each year.
Currently, these measures are already being taken. What specific ways can we target aggressive driving?
Mr. SNYDER. Well, I think fundamentally the resources over time that have been committed to highway safety have been eaten away by the effects of inflation, to the point that we're actually, in terms of real purchasing power, spending less now than we were in 1980 overall on highway safety. So I think we need collectively to provide it a higher funding priority.
I think you've heard some good ideas here. A couple major trends have emerged from the witnesses that you've heard. Enforcement is a major issue. If this is a national problemand I think the costs are borne by all of us as individuals and businesses. It affects American competitiveness in terms of costs and lost worker productivity.
Page 126 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
For many, many reasons it is a national problem and it means that forthrightly we need to look at the funding that's available for these programs across a broad spectrum of direct Federal action through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and also grants through the States.
We need more in each of those areas, and I think we'll have some beneficial effects, certainly protecting better those who are the victims of aggressive driving. We've heard from some of those victims today. Frankly, we could all be in that category very quicklyso we need safer cars and use of seat belts.
Then we need to focus on how we deter and then punish more effectively aggressive driving, because I think what you've heard this morning is that it is a national problem.
Mr. PETRI. Just a few questions. I think, Dr. Williams, in your testimony you included some pictures taken by red light cameras that I think three States now have. Is there any evidence that you could provide us with whether those cameras improve safety or not? Is that an investment that's worth it? Should that be encouraged somehow? Does it cause people to be more safe because people are aware that there is a record being made of their behavior? Or does that basically not affect behavior?
Mr. WILLIAMS. Most of the evidence as to the effectiveness of the red light cameras comes from other countries, because that is where they have been used for a number of years, and in countries like Australia, where they are used extensively, they have been determined to reduce motor vehicle crashes associated with red light running by about a third. So they are effective, and there are studies that are being planned and are actually underway in this country in California and Virginia to look at the effects of red light running camera programs that are just being started there.
Page 127 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I think to the extent that people know that these cameras are there, that they are going to take your photograph if you run a red light by more than a half of seconddeliberate red light running is what we're talking aboutthat they are going to reduce the incidence of red light running and red light running associated crashes.
Mr. PETRI. Most of the people who have testified today seem to indicate that aggressive behavior or road rage or both have been on an upward trend in the United States in the last 10 or 15 years, and it now is identified as the major problem in some surveys of motorists. Do you think the change in the profile of vehicles has made any difference?
We seem to have more and morewe've been downsizing and making cars smaller and smaller, and a large portion of the public doesn't like that, so they buy things that are classified as trucks that are gas guzzlers and weigh more, and auto companies are making fortunes on bigger and bigger vehicles on the highway. Is there a difference in road rage or aggressive behavior related to the vehicle mix or the change in vehicle mix or the type of vehicle a person is driving?
Volvo drivers, are they always meek and accommodating, and Mercedes drivers are suburban drivers, aggressive? Or don't those sort of statistics exist?
Mr. WILLIAMS. I think the consequences of aggressive driving can be greater now with larger vehicles on the road. And, to the extent large, heavy vehicles collide with small, light vehicles, there are more-severe consequences to the occupants of the smaller vehicle, so I think that is a factor.
Page 128 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I don't really think there is any evidence that if you have a large vehicle you're going to be driving it in ways that are more likely to get you into a motor vehicle crash. I mean, people don't want to be in a crash if you have a new, larger utility vehicle. So there's really no evidence in the literature that that's a factor.
In our study of red light runners in Arlington, Virginia, it was actually people in smaller cars that were more likely to run red lights.
Mr. SNYDER. Mr. Chairman, I think in the recent past we've sent some mixed messages on the issue of highway safety. We've done various things collectively, either in the private sector or in the public sector that have resulted, I think, in less progress and, in fact, in some ways a reversal of some of the progress that we made some years ago.
So I think holding a hearing like this, the Congress putting itself fully behind a number of efforts and putting the resources behind those efforts, will begin to send a much more clear signal than we've sent recently that we are serious about highway safety. It is a national, State, and local problem, and that we're going to address it. It's not something we've forgotten about. We don't like the way the numbers are going, and we're going to work together through a series of measures, and providing the resources for those measures, to address the issue. We must send once again one and only one signal, which is: we're serious about highway safety, we want to reduce fatalities and injuries.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you. Thank you all for coming and testifying here today. I think that will conclude panel four.
Page 129 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The last panel is something that's a bit of an innovation. We have an opportunity to boldly go where no committee in Congress has gone before. This hearing will be one of the first Congressional hearings in cyberspace.
Our next witness is Dr. Leon James from the University of Hawaii on the other side of the world, who will be testifying before this subcommittee from Hawaii via video conferencing. This is the first time this has been attempted under the new House pilot program.
All Members have been provided with a video conferencing etiquette sheet, and I would ask Members to grant us some indulgence as we may encounter a few technical difficulties.
With that, we welcome you, Dr. James, and we look forward to your five-minute summary. Your written statement will be made, whether it's by e-mail or the internet, will be made a part of the record of this hearing.
Please proceed. Doctor, you look very good for 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning in Hawaii, and we look forward to your proceeding at this time.
TESTIMONY OF DR. LEON JAMES, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII
Dr. JAMES. Aloha from Hawaii. I wonder if you can hear me.
Page 130 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PETRI. Yes. We can hear you loud and clear. Please proceed.
Dr. JAMES. Thank you.
I'd like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak to the committee on this important subject.
My name is Leon James. I am professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii. For the past 15 years I have been teaching courses in traffic psychology. I maintain an educational internet site where I'm known as ''Dr. Driving.'' I analyze electronic discussion groups of drivers around the country who talk about what they think and feel on daily commute.
I created a taxonomy of driving behavior, composed of inventories of what drivers typically do think and feel behind the wheel.
Since 1962, my research has focused on application of behavioral science to causative and motivational properties by recording and analyzing actual streams of thought and feelings that guide human activity.
In 1977 I began research on driving behavior, training college students to use behavioral science techniques to modify their own driving behavior. I had drivers use a tape recorder in the car to record and play back their description of their thoughts and feelings behind the wheel. I call these ''self witnessing'' tapes.
Page 131 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In 15 years, I've identified many detailed psychological components of aggressive driving and have developed an empirically-based theory of what causes aggressive driving and what behavioral techniques can be used to measure and control it.
My research has confirmed to some degree nearly every driver has feelings of rage and thoughts of retaliation. For the past year, the media has increased coverage of road rage incidents, and people are asking questions for which scientific data are not yet available. Is aggressive driving increasing? Are there differences or is it a universal epidemic? What causes the increase in aggressive driving and how can it be controlled?
I think what's on the increase is the amount of habitual road rage we see today. I define habitual road rage as a persistent state of hostility behind the wheel, demonstrated by acts of aggression and a continuum of violence, and justified by righteous indignation.
Driving and habitual road rage have become virtually inseparable. Road rage is a habit acquired in childhood. Children are reared in a car culture that condones irate expression as part of the normal wear and tear of driving. Once they enter a car, children notice that all the sudden the rules have changed. It's okay to be mad, very upset, out of control, and use bad language that's ordinarily not allowed.
By the time they get their driver's license, adolescents have assimilated years of road rage. The road rage habit can be unlearned, but it takes more than conventional driver's ed.
Page 132 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Defense driving courses teach an attitude of constant awareness, teaching us to assume the worse and treat all drivers the same. Insurance companies offer incentives to drivers who take such courses.
Defense driving has surely prevented many accidents, but it's potentially negative at survival techniques. It's not enough by itself.
For aggressive drivers, defensive driving is a double-edged sword. If you feel provoked, wronged, or impatient, a defensive attitude can quickly turn offensive. It's easy to slip into ''the best defense is a good offense'' strategy.
I found in my research that drivers frequently exhibit emotionally unintelligent behavior. An angry psychological style that we find unacceptable at home is apparently okay in the car. Most of the motorists I've worked with are unaware of the intensity of their inner road rage. When listening to their self-witnessing tape behind the wheel, men and women are generally shocked to discover that they have extremely hostile impulses.
Training in emotional intelligence for drivers needs to begin in kindergarten, focusing on appropriate attitudes and behavior on actual roads, streets, parking lots, and in cars as passengers. By the time adolescents learn to drive, after years of learning to respect other road users, then they will be ready to operate vehicles as emotionally intelligent drivers. In my written testimony, this is referred to as ''new driver's ed.''
I have proposed a national organization called ''Children Against Road Rage,'' or CARR, patterned after SADD, Students Against Drunk Driving, because children need support in helping each other to avoid acquiring this insidious generational imprinting.
Page 133 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In my written testimony I document key psychological plights of baby commuters around the country expressed by drivers in their own areas. I propose that quality driving circles, or QDCs, be established in areas of commuter congestion. These are small, informal citizen groups regularly meeting in neighborhoods. I explain why external approaches, alone, such as law enforcement and public education campaigns, will not succeed, and why a social, cultural approach is essential to contain aggressive driving.
I believe that we have to transform the culture of negative driving into a positive, but drivers need to be trained to apply emotional intelligence skills in traffic, to develop a smart driving philosophywhat in Hawaii we call ''aloha spirit driving.''
A supportive driving environment will result in fewer accidents, injuries, and deaths. There will be less stress, and an inherent sense of safety and civilized community on the road.
My written testimony contains three proposals for helping aggressive drivers to become supportive drivers. Motorists deserve the opportunity of experiencing the pleasure of supportive driving and a sense of true freedom on the road.
Thank you. I'll be glad to answer any questions.
Mr. PETRI. Thank you for your testimony. I would now recognize Representative Nick Rahall of West Virginia to ask you some questions.
Page 134 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. RAHALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you for your testimony, Dr. James.
In your new driver's ed program, you suggest training in emotional intelligence skills for future drivers; however, what about a parent's influence on a child's actions as a driver? We often find ourselves mimicking our parents' behavior. How can we be sure that such a program as the new driver's ed will be an effective deterrent to future aggressive driving?
Dr. JAMES. Congressman, yes, I believe that aggressive driving is a cultural norm, so it takes a cultural method to fight it, to fight an epidemic like this, and so I suggest that both the parents, as adults, all the adult drivers today, form themselves into quality driving circles, or QDCs, to help them acquire these various emotional intelligence techniques which they haven't been taught.
But, along with that, the new driver's ed has to take care of the upcoming generation, and I believe that you need to start in kindergarten and, of course, the emotional attitudes that are needed to be intelligent road users do start at that age. And yes, parents do have to support and it has to be included in Parent Teacher Association and other such organizations that exist today.
Mr. RAHALL. Your suggestion for the QDCs, the quality driving circles, is certainly a commendable concept. Outside of a mandated court appearance, how do we provide incentives for individuals to attend these QDCs?
Page 135 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Dr. JAMES. I believe that people are ready to try something else, because, as I have documented, aggressive driving has become such a problem. But it is a social change.
For instance, one of the things that shocked me is that many aggressive drivers who recount their outrageous behavior are proud of it. They don't feel moral injustice has been committed. In fact, they feel the moral injustice against themselves.
For instance, a tailgater, a habitual tailgater, would think of himself as a victim and would feel that the person who is going too slow is the aggressor. This kind of unintelligent thinking is what we have to work with.
So I believe that it has to be a general cultural program, all the current methods that we have for changing norms, as we have done, for instance, with seat belts. There has definitely been a change in the last few years, and more people wear seat belts or accept seat belts now than in the past.
So here is an example. We do have successful ways of changing cultural norms. But aggressive driving is going to be, I think, more difficult than seat belts. Therefore, it takes quality driving circles, Children Against Road Rage, and new driver's ed in order to really conquer the problem.
Mr. RAHALL. Thank you, Dr. James.
Page 136 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. PETRI. This is Chairman Tom Petri. I just had a question or two.
I think you've been doing a lot of research in this area. What does it show so far as whether there is a correlation or not between congestion and aggressive driving? Do congested roads contribute to that? Would making the flow of traffic more smooth or adequate help reduce aggressive driving?
Dr. JAMES. I'm sorry, Congressman, but
Mr. PETRI. Let me try one more time.
Dr. JAMES. I had a lot of trouble.
Mr. PETRI. Is there a correlation between congestion and aggressive driving?
Dr. JAMES. Yes, there is. The kind of data that I gathered over the years has to do with how drivers think behind the wheel under the moment of emotions and so forth, and we call it both an affective impairment and a cognitive impairment, which is why I use the term ''emotional intelligence,'' because it has these two componentsthe emotion and the thinking, the judgment. And yes, under emotional conditions, as we all know, judgment is impaired.
Page 137 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
For instance, when we train emergency personnel such as fire fighters, police, security, and so on, we make sure that they get training in emotional intelligence that there are emotions in the situation that would contribute to the actual problem, and there are many techniques available to behavioral science that we could teach to people.
One example, for instance, is what we call ''self-regulatory sentences.'' These are just the kind of ordinary sentences that we say to ourselves anyway, but now they are negative. So we need to build up the positive self-regulatory sentences.
One other example, a driver who thinks that the other person is a moron because of what they just did is not thinking of alternatives. The fact is that today we have a diversity of drivers. We have older drivers, we have drivers who are less-experienced, we have drivers who travel and are confused as to where they are, so we have got to cut these people more slack.
It's this attitude of latitude, which is another example that we need to teach people to think better.
Mr. PETRI. Dr. James, thank you again very much for participating in this ground-breaking high-tech video conference section of today's hearing on road rage and aggressive driving. We appreciate very much your participation and that of the other panelists, yours particularly because I know you had to get up before the sun in Hawaii. Thank you very much.
Page 138 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With that, this hearing stands adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12:40 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned, to reconvene at the call of the Chair.]