Corrections or additions?
This article by Bart Jackson was prepared for the January 30, 2002
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Curbing Road Rage
Oh merciful heavens, dear, that misguided
man up ahead, just swept right in front of me without signaling and
now has slammed on his brakes inches from my bumper. I do pray the
poor soul is not ill." Is this your reaction to the little
of your fellow travelers along Route 1? Statistically not. The
Council of New Jersey claims the odds are much more likely that you
will ignore all your Zen mentor’s teachings, become very human, and
loudly call that individual’s parentage into question.
Those interested in learning just how well we are controlling our
emotions on the road — and the exact price of our anger —
should attend the "Road Rage and Aggressive Driving" seminar
at the monthly dinner meeting of the Insurance Women of Mercer County,
on Wednesday, February 5, at 5:30 p.m. at Freddie’s Tavern, 12
Street, West Trenton. The featured speaker is Rachel Enoch,
consumer education and research supervisor for the New Jersey
Council. She sets down the facts, and helps create an accurate picture
of our behind-the-wheel habits. Cost: $20, including dinner. Call
Bonnie Adams at 609-883-1300.
The Insurance Women of Mercer County, a chapter of the national
includes women from life, auto, health, and all other branches of
insurance. It invites adjusters, bill payers, agents, file clerks
— anyone except vendors — to join. The group has
monthly dinner meetings.
A new traffic light goes up in America every 31 seconds. Most of our
interstate highways reached their safe and effective capacity in the
early-1970s. It is indeed an asphalt jungle out there, particularly
in our own Garden State. Yet despite it all, you will probably never
fall into a fit of real road rage. The example of the North Jersey
man who in response to a fender bender, leapt from his car, dragged
out the offender, and beat him senseless remains rare.
Road rage is, after all, the extreme. The law defines and punishes
it as a criminal offense entailing a deliberate assault by a driver
on human or moving auto; or an assault following some traffic-induced
altercation. "This may not be your style," points out speaker
Enoch, "But the seeds of it lie in us all."
Aggressive driving includes such dangerous discourtesies as
improper lane changes, and drag racing off a traffic light. Enoch
grew up in Randolph, received a bachelor’s from Richmond University
and a master’s from the University of Pennsylvania. Recently she
and others from the Insurance Council of New Jersey sought to
the extent of aggressive driving habits in our state.
Sampling a broad spectrum of New Jersey motorists, the council
the Larson Drivers’ Stress Test. Developed by Yale University’s John
Larson, the test is designed to gauge relative degrees of Impatience,
Anger, Competition, and Punishing Behavior. The results proved that
the urge to surge dwells in more than the rare crazy whose rage makes
to "never," drivers were asked how often they became visibly
upset while e.g. waiting for a parking place, encountering slow
or falling behind in your personal schedule. Less than one half rated
themselves at always or highly impatient. (Viewed the other way, our
state’s impatience glass is nearly half full.)
e.g. slow down in front of you for no reason; cut you off or drag
slowly, well below the speed limit, or make unexpected stops? Here
is where New Jersey tempers truly shone with well over 50 per cent
displaying high-to-moderate amounts of anger at those annoying,
made this trip yesterday in 20 minutes, and today I’m already
How about beating the other fellow through the toll booth? Do you
ever race, or push the pedal just a little towards the limit at a
stop light to beat out the driver in the next lane? Apparently only
30 percent of Garden State drivers admitted to such frequent
do you respond with a curse or some digitally symbolic gesture? Or
maybe you go a bit further by flashing your lights at this inept soul,
blocking her, or riding her tail — only when its necessary? Well,
you are in good company. Forty percent of those surveyed frequently
displayed moderate-or- more amounts of such punishing behavior, with
10 percent ranging into the high category.
injured due to aggressive driving accidents. New Jersey’s 4.8 million
registered vehicles have unfortunately held up their bitter end. Of
280,000 accidents annually, the Insurance Council claims, one third
are due to aggressive driving.
"One thing this survey proved," says Enoch., "is that
aggressive driving spreads wider than any possible profile." The
old myth about young boys under 25 in red cars doing 95 percent of
the tailgating has proven to be exactly that. Old and young show the
same anger "and there are a lot of mommies hiding behind their
great big SUVs. They are as guilty as men."
Solutions are not simple. Certainly, if you see an aggressive driver
coming, Enoch’s advice of putting your pride in the back seat remains
sensible. Also, it wouldn’t display a loss of personal power if you
moved over for that person behind who wanted to speed on a little
faster. And if she really gets obnoxious, you can grab your cell phone
and report her to the #77 hotline set up by Congressman Franks. But
in the end, we might all live a little longer by paying attention
to our own tranquility.
A few years ago, my friend on the way to Princeton Medical Center
was suddenly cut off by a thoughtless motorist pulling into an
in Cranbury. Both cars halted in time to avoid any damage. Yet my
friend flung open his door, and began slamming his fists on the
Granted, my friend was on his way to visit his recently stricken wife
and discuss her upcoming brain surgery. His new job demanded a commute
to Washington, D.C., and gave him enough hours on the road. He had
had it. He was large, powerful and surely must have terrified the
older lady inside the car he was assaulting.
In the end, he exhausted his arms and his anger, and retreated. Within
several minutes, my friend resumed the manners of a gentleman that
have been his habitual trademark. At the time, I personally had never
held a driver’s license and did not really understand all his fuss.
But today, having spent the last two years behind this magic wheel,
I recall those other drivers who have cut me off and realize that
there, but for a few bad circumstances, rage I.
— Bart Jackson
Entrepreneurs — if you are ogling the pot of
money that the government dishes out to promising technology firms,
look far forward into the future. It’s one thing to get a grant to
develop your technology, and it’s quite another to fulfill the
of that grant.
Take the Small Business Innovation Research program. These grants
require the entrepreneur to take a discovery out of the laboratory
and into the marketplace. It must go commercial.
Only by going commercial can you make the big money. SBIR grants can
yield $100,000 for the first phase and $750,000 for the second phase.
But typical profits for the first and second phases generally run
at seven percent. For the really good money, the entrepreneur must
get to Phase III.
How to get to Phase III is the topic for a workshop on SBIR Phase
II Proposal Preparation, presented by the Newark-based Technology
Commercialization Center (TCC). Gail and Jim Greenwood will
lead the workshop on Tuesday, February 5, at 8:30 a.m. at Rutgers’
Cook College campus center in New Brunswick. Cost: $60. Call
SBIR is the federal government’s largest R&D grants program targeted
to the small business community, says Randy Harmon, director of the
TCC. "It is inarguably the best source of risk capital available
to help fund the development of promising new technologies. And the
odds for the SBIR grants are very good, one in eight for Phase I and
two in five for Phase II."
The workshop will teach Phase I winners and applicants more about
the second phase of the SBIR/STTR programs — how Phase II differs
from Phase I, how the Phase II programs vary tremendously among the
agencies, and how to prepare the Phase II proposal.
Harmon’s Technology Commercialization Center (TCC) is part of the
New Jersey Small Business Development Center (NJSBDC) of Rutgers
School of Management. Along with the law firm Hale & Dorr, the TCCC
is also putting together an advisory board to help Phase II companies
jump the commercialization hurdle.
"Historically, not enough technology has been commercialized,"
says Harmon. "We have companies that are SBIR factories. They
can crank out the proposals but are not as strong at commercializing
the technologies. But the federal agencies have been putting more
emphasis on the commercialization plans."
The College Road-based law firm is collaborating with Harmon to find
personnel for the advisory board in such areas as accounting, finance,
and marketing. Companies in this program provide the board members
with a good executive summary of their plans and then meet with the
board for about an hour. "We are starting off reviewing the
plans of those who already have the Phase II grants," says Harmon,
"but we also hope to open it up to companies who are still
their Phase II proposal."
Joe Allegra, partner in the Edison Venture Fund
at 1009 Lenox Drive, has been on both sides of the table. A venture
capitalist for just about a year, he spent most of the 1990s as a
high-tech entrepreneur, founding software company Princeton Softech,
and building it into a 60-person company. Princeton Softech was
for $43 million in 1998 by Computer Horizons. Allegra stayed on for
a while as the company’s president before trying on a VC’s suit on
a trial basis. Discovering how much he enjoyed talking with the
who brought their ideas to the Edison Venture Fund, he signed on full
time one year ago.
Allegra speaks on "The Secret Language of Venture Capital"
at a New Jersey Entrepreneurial Network meeting Wednesday, February
6, at noon at the Doral Forrestal. Cost: $45. Call 856-787-7900.
The main thing eager entrepreneurs tend not to understand about
capital, says Allegra, is that it is a business with a goal identical
to that of any other business — to make money. But while that
goal is universal, different VC firms pursue it in different ways.
Commonalities include the fact that VC firms manage funds that
are invested for a period of 10 years. According to Allegra, most
of the firms’ investors "look for the ability to go to about three
to five times the money they put in." Tenfold returns are even
better, but, says Allegra, "in the real world, companies don’t
go straight up." Even modest challenges can reduce returns. Larger
challenges, like the ones that cropped up during the past several
years, caused more than a few VCs to lose all their money.
More careful now, VC firms look first of all for a strong business
model, says Allegra. But no business model is perfect, so management
teams, which will have to keep making real-world corrections to the
plan, are given a close look.
Beyond the common goal of making a lot of money from backing start-ups
with solid plans and talented management, VC firms differ in ways
entrepreneurs approaching them need to know.
"We take companies with revenues of $2 to $15 million," says
Allegra. His firm’s goal is to grow these companies into enterprises
with revenues of $50 to $250 million. Other firms specialize in
companies, early stage companies, or well-developed companies.
in expansion stage companies," Allegra says of Edison. "We
generally invest $3 million." Other VC firms, he says, put in
just a fraction of that amount, while others like to invest $10
Before approaching VCs, an entrepreneur needs to think about his
stage, and how much cash it needs to get to the next stage.
Perhaps more important, young companies need to think about what they
expect from their venture capital partner. Some VCs just pour in
says Allegra, while others, like his firm, take an active mentoring
Geography plays a role in narrowing the field of VC firms, too,
in choosing among those that take an active role in the companies
in which they invest. Many venture capitalists stay close to their
own backyards, the better to interact with the management teams of
their portfolio companies. Edison, for example, invests in companies
in the Mid-Atlantic region, stretching from New Jersey — or
New York City — south to Virginia.
New Jersey, Allegra says, is under-served by VCs. Only 10 to 15
of venture capital money raised in New Jersey stays in-state, he says.
By way of comparison, 60 percent of the money raised in California
stays put. "But," Allegra observes, "there are as many
high tech companies here."
He sees the number of new tech enterprises only growing as large
stagnate or downsize. What that happens, says Allegra, "the smart
people start their own businesses."
Michael Hierl, president of the Pacesetter Group, has been named
to head a national search for a successor to Ellen Hodges, who
served as president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Princeton Area
for more than 25 years. Until she left her position one month ago,
Hodges had been the only person to head the Princeton Chamber.
According to a written statement, Hierl will head a search committee
made up of "leading representatives from the constituencies the
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