Summary Report Aggressive Driving and the Law May 1999

Executive Summary




Appendix I

Appendix II


Opening Charge

Ricardo Martinez, M.D., NHTSA Administrator
Dr. Martinez welcomed participants and thanked them for agreeing to share their thoughts and expertise on the important subject of aggressive driving. He mentioned the growth in statistical data on the problem and the work being done at the state level to generate them, but cited the "human aspect" as the most important part of the equation. He then introduced Cheryle Adams, who told her story about being the victim of an aggressive driver.

Cheryle Adams, Aggressive Driving Victim
Ms. Adams related her heart-rending experience of being hit in June 1993 by a driver who ran a red light, leaving her with her legs pinned to the base of a lamp post. She was spared amputation of her legs, but was left with severe physical and emotional damage. After 10 surgeries over the past 5 years, Ms. Adams must still live each day with pain and the possibility of losing her legs. She noted that one of the drivers responsible for her injuries was given a mere traffic citation. She pleaded for stronger law enforcement to protect people who obey the law and to encourage all drivers nationwide to do the same.

Rodney Slater, Secretary of Transportation
"Transportation is about people," Secretary Slater began. It is how people get to work, school, the Nation's Capitol, and many other places--safely. Making careless use of this privilege equates to recklessness, he added, expressing his concern for protecting the safety not just of drivers, but of pedestrians and bicyclists, and for being able to continue doing those activities we all enjoy and tend to take for granted.

Secretary Slater thanked Ms. Adams for "standing" for this issue and for inspiring others to take action. He thanked participants for engaging in this "honorable endeavor" to strengthen our communities and help ensure the safety of their residents. He also thanked the symposium organizers, calling safety this Administration's highest priority. "Safety is our North Star," he commented, "by which we'll be guided and judged." DOT is directing $6.8 billion over the next several years toward increasing safety on the Nation's highways, Secretary Slater noted, adding that participants' commitment and finding of solutions will ensure that this money is put to productive use.

Aggressive driving is one of the leading safety concerns among America's drivers. Who are the aggressive drivers? he asked. They are us. As the NHTSA telephone survey showed, two-thirds of drivers surveyed admitted to driving unsafely for a variety of reasons. Secretary Slater hoped the symposium would drive home the point that where there is cause, there is effect, and that we must "raise the bar higher."

He called for a three-pronged approach to include (1) education, (2) enforcement, and (3) judicial efforts. Aggressive driving programs in the District of Columbia and the states that have them are generating results, as are other demonstration projects. Through education and enforcement, the number of crashes is decreasing. The progress of these programs is prompting communities to continue them, even absent Federal funding. Court systems, too, must be an integral part of the solution, Secretary Slater continued, and must impose equal and mandatory enforcement penalties, with stiffer guidelines for sentencing aggressive drivers.

Secretary Slater believed participants to have a great opportunity to formulate a national policy that recognizes the seriousness of aggressive driving by suggesting more uniform and appropriate penalties--as occurred with drunk and impaired driving. "We must be visionary and vigilant," he concluded, in addressing the three prongs. He urged participants, when trying to reconcile the wishes of all involved, to come forth with recommendations for solutions that "focus on the people."