December 10-16, 1999 ·
Vol. 20, No. 17
North Miami Firm
Combats Road Rage
to the Business Journal
Fed up with South
Florida traffic and those crazy drivers, constantly weaving in and out of
traffic, cutting off cars, in a hurry to get somewhere only to end up at a red
light next to the same car they passed five miles ago?
know the ones who think a flashing signal is an extended middle finger and give
new meaning to tailgating party.
reacting angrily toward a reckless driver can turn anyone into an aggressive
driver who can surge into road rage, the worst-case scenario in which one driver
actually inflicts physical harm on another.
a big problem in South Florida, where Miami-Hialeah and Fort Lauderdale-Pompano
Beach are ranked in the top seven areas nationally for the highest aggressive
driving death rates.
a driving safety course, has been created by the American Institute for Public
Safety (AIPS) to help address the problem. This North Miami company, a
multimillion-dollar, national operation with 40 employees at the headquarters,
consists of the same folks who made traffic school fun with their Improv Traffic
Schools, founded by AIPS president Gary Alexander in California in 1985.
1996, 41,500 people died and over 3 million more were injured in police-reported
crashes. About one-third of the crashes and about two-thirds of the resulting
fatalities can be attributed to behavior associated with aggressive driving,”
said Dr. Ricardo Martinez of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Chris Huffman, chief operating officer of AIPS and himself an admitted
recovering AD (aggressive driver): “We don’t make fun of safety; we make
believe that Roadrageous will parallel the points of action in what they did to
address DUI 5 years ago,” Huffman said, adding, “Start at a grass roots
level; enforce it judicially and then educate. … Acknowledge that at one time
or another everyone has demonstrated aggressive driving. Recognize it, witness
it and modify your behavior.”
the past six years, AIPS has been one of nine traffic school providers in the
state, but one
of two that offer the usually dull program in a comedic,
attention-grabbing four-hour seminar.
use interactive edutainment,” Huffman said. “It puts people at ease and
keeps them engaged. The mind is more open and receptive to our serious messages,
and better retained.”
comedian Michael Panzeca is on of Roadrageous’ two part-time instructions
(comedian Jim Moran is the other), who in the first six weeks has met with more
than 250 drivers.
are two types of drivers: morons and idiots,” Panzeca jokes with his captive
audience. He continued: “Morons in the slow cars ahead, idiots zooming past
I saw how this course was affecting my driving, being more aware and less
judgmental, I realized it was a good thing we were offering,” said Panzeca,
who has taught the better driving instruction (BDI) course for four years.
“People will do things in a car that they wouldn’t normally do because of
the sense of anonymity.”
Panzeca tells his disciples to put a face on the driver they just flipped the
guy is a human being, too,” said Panzeca, 37, who lives in Fort Lauderdale.
“I tell people in the class, ‘Would you give the finger to Bob now that you
know him?’ ‘’
to avoid aggressive driving behavior
others have feelings.
a deep breath and let it go.
let the clock control you.
allow others to control your emotions.
the process of getting there.
take things personally.
has established a proven track record with its comedy traffic schools. The
Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported a 39.9 percent
decrease in collisions of Florida drivers who have gone through the Improv
such as those certainly helped AIPS Chief Executive Officer Howard Premer and
his partners sell the Roadrageous concept to Miami-Dade Chief Circuit Judge
said it was time to “take a proactive approach to road rage” and that
offenders must learn to stop their rude and hostile driving habits. He said the
pilot program’s effectiveness would probably take a year to determine whether
people in the classes were getting any fewer tickets. In exchange for taking the
eight-hour Roadrageous class, offenders can reduce their fines and minimize lost
points off their licenses, which would diminish their insurance liability.
Florida Highway Patrol wants the Legislature to define aggressive driving,
making it a crime and enforcing pertinent laws. Once that happens, Roadrageous
and AIPS plan to expand statewide. Huffman intends to contact Broward and Palm
Beach county judges next.
1993, when we started the Improv traffic school here [in North Miami], we’ve
gone from a few thousand students bringing in about $300,000 to training more
than 9,000 students a month and into a multimillion dollar corporation,”
Huffman said. “In the last 18 months, the company has exploded. My mission is
to grow this company into a national power.”
hiring of Huffman, whose background in growth management of companies such as
Cunard Line Ltd. and Rolls-Royce-Motor Cars, has paid dividends for AIPS. Since
he joined the company a year ago, volume is up more than 150 percent.
areas with highest aggressive driving death rates
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Fatal Accident Reporting System
says a Dallas judge is considering incorporating Roadrageous into the court
system and AIPS already has two-year exclusive arrangement with Indiana to be
the Hoosier state’s solo driving school provider. Kentucky is in the fold,
with deals in the work for Colorado, Texas, New Jersey and New York.
North Miami emerald tower headquarters on Biscayne Boulevard includes 30
customer service reps who handle national call center phones seven days a week
from 7a.m. to 11p.m.
company also has a national sales force of eight, who try to drum up business
for their various driver’s safety schools and products.