Campus: San Diego State University -- October 20, 1999

Putting the Brakes on Road Rage -- SDSU Professor Examines Causes, Offers Solutions

San Diego, CA, October 20, 1999--It's the number-one cause of job-related death in the United States and it affects virtually everyone who has ever driven a vehicle. It's road rage, and thanks to "Cool Operator," a first-of-its-kind program developed by the California Institute on Transportation Safety (CITS) at San Diego State University, drivers are being educated how to cope with one of society's newest and most prevalent problems. About 2000 people have this year attended Cool Operator seminars throughout Southern California.

"Anybody who has driven a car has no doubt been angered or annoyed by the actions of aggressive drivers," said CITS Director Dr. Shelia Sarkar. "It can range from a simple discourteous act to one that provokes physical, violent confrontation. We're helping drivers understand various ways to cope when it happens to them, which it inevitably will."

Sarkar, who has studied the subject for more than five years, said common causes of road rage include being cut off or tailgated and motorists who weave through traffic or drive erratically while talking on cellular phones. She added CITS research shows urban design also plays a role.

"The design of some merge lanes as well as the use of the gore point (the area between the freeway and an off-ramp used by drivers who belatedly realize they have missed their exit) really contributes to the problem. There are several areas we can address to lessen the instances of road rage."

CITS has tracked the instances of aggressive driving in San Diego reported to the California Highway Patrol. The stretch of Interstate 5 between Del Mar Heights Road and Villa de la Valle had the most incidents, although Sarkar estimates only about one in ten acts of road rage are reported.

"It's virtually impossible to eliminate all the causes of road rage," she said. "The purpose of Cool Operator is to equip drivers to cope with the inevitable anger and not give into it."

San Diego State University is the oldest and largest higher education institution in the San Diego region. Since it was founded as a teacher-training program in 1897, it has grown to offer bachelor's degrees in 76 areas, master's degrees in 58 areas and doctorates in 11. The more than 30,000 students participate in an academic curriculum distinguished by direct contact with professors and an increasing international emphasis that prepares them for a global future.

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