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David Baxter PhD

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Group therapy aims to calm raging drivers
Thursday, September 20, 2007
CBC News

As traffic chaos in Alberta's booming cities drives some motorists to violence, a veteran mental health counsellor has started the province's first therapy group for road rage.

"There's an increase in assaults and there's a lot of ramming of vehicles and it accelerates to the point of fisticuffs," said Robert Peters, who has taught anger management courses for the last 20 years.

Mental health counsellor Robert Peters hopes his road rage therapy will become mandatory.

Peters hopes the course will be mandatory one day for people convicted in road rage incidents, an idea supported by both the Alberta Motor Association (AMA) and the Calgary police.

"We need to go there," said Richard Larocque, the AMA's manager of driver education. "We already do it for impairment.? You have to go to these programs before you regain your licence."

In most road rage incidents, police charge the offender with careless driving, which carries a maximum fine of $402 and seven demerit points. Traffic officers say it's not much of a deterrent.

"It doesn't matter how many tickets they get or how many demerits, they don't get the picture," said Const. Mike O'Connor of the Calgary police. "They, for whatever reason, will continue their poor, poor driving habits."

About a quarter of Albertans surveyed by Leger Marketing in 2001 said they had been victims of road rage, while 32 per cent said they had witnessed it. Respondents said most rage came in the form of indecent gestures or verbal threats.

"They justify their aggression," Peters said of angry drivers. "You infringed on my space so I'm going retaliate. It is a new phenomenon beyond domestic violence counselling."

The group sessions will be limited to 15 people with the focus on changing drivers' attitudes, Peters said.
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