Putting The Brakes On Road Rage

Road rage - a symptom of the hurried pace of life in the '90s - is facing a government crackdown.

Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater kicked off a new public-awareness campaign Thursday to educate drivers about the dangers of running a red light.

"Too often, families and loved ones die needless deaths because everyone-everyone - is in a hurry," Slater said.

Slater called red-light running one of the most dangerous acts of aggressive driving, which he said has claimed the lives of 218 people from January 1990 through the summer of 1996.

More than 10,000 cases of road rage were reported in that same period, and, in addition to the deaths, they resulted in nearly 13,000 injuries.

For the first time, the federal government is calling aggressive driving as serious a problem as drunk driving and is using the same techniques it used in its drunk-driving campaigns to crack down on road rage.

Thirty-one cities have been involved in a pilot campaign to curb red-light running, and incidents of it have dropped in 28 of those localities. The program now is being expanded to 200 cities nationwide.

The $10 million campaign will include television promotions that show the danger of running red lights, a violation that Slater called "the leading cause of turban crashes today."

Polls show drivers in the United States fear road rage - from excessive speed to running red lights - as much as they do drunk driving, but police believe that the nationwide numbers won't change until; tougher penalties. This means jail time, not tickets for those who get hot under the collar when they're behind the wheel.