September 5, 2009
The Post & Courier
George Spaulding

The AAA organization has recently discovered that 75 percent of respondents in a survey rate aggressive driving “a serious or extremely serious” problem on the highway.

Sounds about right, but please read on … “However, nearly half of those recognizing it as a problem admitted to speeding more than 15 mph over the limit on the highway and in the city.” They also admitted “other aggressive driving acts — speeding up to beat a yellow light (58 percent), honking at other drivers (41 percent), pressuring other drivers to speed up (26 percent), tailgating (22 percent) and deliberately running red lights (6 percent).”

Steve Phillips, manager of traffic safety for AAA Carolinas, said, “We have a tendency to always believe it is the other driver who is the problem. In trust, like another famous saying, ‘We have met the enemy and he is us.’”

If you regularly drive 15 mph over the posted speed limit, do you consider yourself aggressive?

Ellen Erickson, a manager at the Franke at Seaside retirement community, handed me this note: “Drive Sharp, computer software that features two visual processing exercises that improve visual skills essential to safe driving. Check it out!”

I did just that, Ellen, and this is what I found. AAA members (and others) can indeed sharpen their driving qualities with the new software program that hones mental acuity, improves on-road focus and is clinically proven to cut the risk of being in a car crash by 50 percent.

According to AAA, members receive a 29 percent discount and can use game exercises to build up the brain’s ability to function more efficiently, just like an athlete improving physical skills.

Drive Sharp is validated by the National Institute of Health. Steve Phillips, again, said, “This is a product that actually helps drivers improve in the specific areas they need.” It was noted that two specifically designed game exercises for the mind work together to improve the brain’s ability to process what you see.

For example, one game trains you to pay attention to multiple moving objects at once, such as oncoming traffic, while another works on your field of vision and processing speed.

Testing found this brain fitness program can reduce stopping distance by up to 22 feet at 55 mph, a distance that could easily mean the difference between avoiding and being in a crash.

AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety has partnered with Posit Science, a leader in brain fitness technology, to extend the safe driving experience to all motorists. AAA members can visit to purchase the “easy-to-use” software for $99 (retail price is $139) or call (866) 599-6463.

The AAA believes “Drive Sharp can help protect you and your passengers from unsafe, aggressive drivers and other hazards on the road.”

Anything we can do to improve our chances on the highway is important. Betsy McKay, writing in the Wall Street Journal, wrote, “Traffic accidents kill an estimated 1.27 million people a year globally, and nearly half the victims are pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, according to a new report by the World Health Organization.”

The findings illustrate a health hazard that has drawn little attention but is growing, particularly in emerging markets where economic development has put more cars on the road and is prompting the building of new highways.

McKay continued, “Road-traffic accidents are the leading cause of death in the world, after heart disease, lower respiratory infections, HIV-AIDs and other conditions, according to the WHO. They (road accidents) cause as many as 50 million nonfatal injuries a year.”

The rest of the world has quite a ways to go to catch up with the United States. “Yet traffic safety laws aren’t keeping pace with economic development. Only 15 percent of the 178 countries surveyed for the report have a comprehensive set of laws to prevent drunken driving, set speed limits in rural areas, and increase the use of seats belts, child restraints and motorcycle helmets, the WHO said. The agency also noted that enforcement of laws is often too low.”

Apparently there is broad opportunity elsewhere for our own aggressive drivers. It requires a move out of the United States, however.

George Spaulding is a retired General Motors executive and distinguished executive-in-residence emeritus at the School of Business and Economics at the College of Charleston. He can be reached at 2 Wharfside St. 2A, Charleston, S.C., 29401.