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AAA Campaigns Against Road Rage

February 19, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Businessman Ron Remer describes his old self as a regular ``Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde.″

Off the road, he had a soft-spoken, sweet demeanor.

But behind the wheel, Remer became a different person altogether: tailgating, flashing his headlights, making obscene gestures.

``I was a road warrior,″ said Remer, who lives in New Haven, Conn. He enrolled in a seminar for angry drivers that taught him to control his frustration and channel it toward more important goals such as work.

The American Automobile Association hopes to produce more reformed ``road ragers″ with a new campaign aimed at quelling the anger of drivers who provoke or commit violence on the road. The association said Wednesday the number of accidents and deaths resulting from ``road rage″ is on the rise, and urged drivers to take a deep breath and relax before hitting the streets.

``If we can convince millions of calm, mature motorists not to get sucked into encounters with angry drivers, many lives can be saved and injuries reduced,″ said David Willis who heads the AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The association will begin airing public-service radio announcements to encourage drivers to obey not only the rules of the road but also the rules of common courtesy.

Remer finds himself a changed driver. He’s more tolerant of elderly and youthful drivers and less competitive with others on the road. He drives ``as if there was a state trooper in my rearview mirror.″

A study commissioned last year by the AAA tallied 10,037 incidents of road rage resulting in 218 deaths between 1990 and September 1996. An additional 12,000 people were injured. And Dr. Ricardo Martinez, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has testified before Congress that about one-third of auto crashes are associated with such driving as weaving in and out of traffic, running red lights and screaming and honking.

Gail Parker, a psychologist at University of Michigan’s business school, characterizes road-rage thinking as ``rigid, perfectionistic and punitive.″

Drivers have the attitude ``if you get in my way, I’m going to make you pay,″ she said.

She recommends that drivers control their breathing and talk themselves into relaxing while in the car.

The AAA also offers these tips:

_Allow for extra driving time.

_Listen to soothing music.

_Avoid eye contact or obscene gesturing with other drivers.

_Don’t block the passing lane.

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