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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Driver Beware

Aired June 16, 2006 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Thanks so much. You probably noticed, we have a brand new home here tonight. Glad to have you with us, a gorgeous night outside CNN's broadcast center in New York just off Central Park as you can see and there's still some pretty heavy traffic heading out for the weekend. Folks are leaving pretty late to beat the crunch. And tonight, we have a very special hour for you, we call "Driver Beware." With the beginning summer crunch on the highways, we have amazing stories that just might save your life.
But first, here's what's happening at this moment in Iraq, an urgent search continues for two U.S. soldiers missing after an attack near Yusufiya. Another soldier was killed. Most Americans now favor the hotly debated issue of setting a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. It is close, mind you, 53 to 47 percent, according to the latest CNN poll.

And now, our crude awakenings, a look at gas prices all over the country. The states with the highest gasoline prices are in red. The lowest gas prices in green and the average today for unleaded regular is $2.87, two cents less than yesterday. Here's a look at where prices have been going over the last couple of weeks.

Now when school wrapped up for the summer, it used to mean our kids would spent a lot more time at home, but not anymore. With summer school, summer camp and summer sports our kids are busier than ever which means you're still going to see lots of school buses out there on the roads this time of year. I don't know about any of you out there, but one of the most frightening things I have to do every day is get my son on the bus. It doesn't matter how long the bus driver has the stop sign out or how many lights on the bus are flashing. The cars just blow by. They don't stop. They don't even bother to slow down. And it turns out, that isn't a New York rudeness thing. We're finding that thousands of people all over the country are breaking the law. Our driver beware special with this startling report from consumer correspondent Greg Hunter.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's one of the biggest dangers your child faces every day, getting on or off a school bus. Traffic is required by law to wait. But too often, people drive right by a stopped bus.

PETER MANNELLA, NY SCHOOL BUS OPERATORS ASSN: That's a chance for a child to die.

HUNTER: Peter Manila heads an association of school bus operators in New York State.

MANNELLA: We estimate 50,000 times a day in our state alone, people pass school buses when they're stopped to let off kids.

HUNTER: Every day?

MANNELLA: Every day.

HUNTER: School transportation officials say millions of motorists nationwide pass busses illegally. Look at this video from Maryland and North Carolina. You won't believe what we saw when we followed this bus in Long Island, New York, for just one day. The police officer said you shouldn't even be driving. Police say a growing number of drivers don't see or blatantly ignore school bus stop signs, making a split second decision that can lead to a lifetime of pain. In February, when Gloria Woodson rushed to this accident near her St. Louis home, she knew something terrible had happened.

GLORIA WOODSON, AARON'S MOTHER: I'm still thinking that's somebody else's child laying on the ground, not knowing it was mine.

HUNTER: Woodson's six-year-old son, Aaron, had just stepped off his school bus and was crossing the street when police say a truck drove around the bus and hit the first grader, knocking him into the air as his classmates watched in horror. Police found the truck a few blocks away and say the driver, 28-year-old Ronald Brown, not only left Aaron lying in the street, he asked his girlfriend to tell investigators the vehicle had been stolen.

CHIEF JOE MOKWA, ST. LOUIS POLICE: Somebody that's totally irresponsible, self centered and you have to question their humanity.

HUNTER: Brown pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and leaving the scene. His attorney declined our request for an interview, but says it was an accident, that his client is not criminally responsible. Aaron, one of the Woodson family's 12 children, died at the scene of massive injuries. It's got to be one of the saddest moments of your life as a momma.

WOODSON: Yes, broke my heart.

HUNTER: But tragedies like this aren't unusual. Statistics collected since 1970 found that nationwide, passing vehicles have killed more than 400 children boarding or exiting their school bus. What goes through your mind when somebody runs a stop arm?

DEREK GRAHAM, SCHOOL BUS TRANSPORTATION DIRECTORS: What were you thinking?

HUNTER: Derek Graham, president elect of the nation's school bus transportation director, says with more traffic and so many driving distractions, many people aren't paying attention or are in too much of a hurry to heed flashing warning lights.

GRAHAM: They see that amber light on the school bus, just like the yellow light on a traffic signal, and they want to try to beat the light, beat the bus.

HANK DRUMM, LONG ISLAND SCHOOL BUS DRIVER: It's a common thing. I see it all the time.

HUNTER: Hank Drumm has been a school bus driver in Long Island, New York, for eight years. We wanted to see what bus drivers encounter on a typical day. So we wired Hank's bus with cameras and rode with local police who follow busses to catch violators.

DRUMM: A lot of traffic on this highway.

HUNTER: When the bus has amber lights flashing, that means slow down. Once the lights turn red, traffic is required to stop. Some drivers did just that, stopping well in front of the bus. Others hit the brakes just in time. But watch what happened here. Instead of slowing down, this SUV went right by the bus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I stopped you because you passed the school bus there.

HUNTER: In New York, the penalties for illegally passing are stiff. Five points on a driver's license, a $250 fine and up to 30 days in jail. Did you see the school bus lights flashing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did see it but the lights were yellow so I thought it was safe to still keep proceeding.

GRAHAM: When you see a soccer ball roll in front of your car, what do you do? You immediately hit the brakes. Now why can't we develop that same kind of reaction around a school bus?

HUNTER: Did you know that when you pass a stopped school bus you could hit a kid and kill him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I really really did not mean to do anything, I swear to God.

HUNTER: Yeah. You know how serious that is?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I do.

HUNTER: The officer gave her a ticket as she tearfully apologized. This driver should have known better. It turns out she's a teacher. But our day was just beginning. In the afternoon as the bus unloaded a child, we saw this white car turn right anyway. Behind the wheel, another apologetic driver.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a retired elementary school principal. That's the -- absolutely the -- if I saw someone do that in front of my school, I would chase them down myself.

HUNTER: But it kept happening. On this busy road, another school bus passed the bus, along with seven other vehicles in both directions, too many for the officer to safely pull over. And then there was this car that blew right past the stop arm.

DRUMM: That was one of the most blatant one that I've seen in eight years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I didn't see a stop sign out.

HUNTER: It was out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. If you say it was out.

HUNTER: Does that bother you that you didn't see a flashing stop sign?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you kidding me, sir? Sir, are you kidding me? I'm trying to get to work. I don't have time for your questions.

MANNELLA: How do you miss a vehicle that size? It's big and yellow and it's flashing at you and waving red stop signs.

HUNTER: Peter Mannella, who represents New York school bus operators, questions the ability of drivers who pass illegally.

MANNELLA: How do you feel comfortable getting behind the wheel.

HUNTER: Do you question your driving ability not seeing something like that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not questioning my driving ability. My driving ability is quite fine.

HUNTER: Well, not exactly. The officer says he doesn't even have a driver's license, only a learner's permit, requiring him to be with a licensed driver.

HUNTER: The police officer says you shouldn't even be driving. He didn't drive anymore. The officer ticketed him and made him leave the car. Some school districts are putting cameras on busses like we did. In Iowa, a school camera caught 40 drivers in six months. So how does this technology work? Well, it's pretty simple. If you approach a school bus and a stop arm is out, you're supposed to stop. But if you don't and the bus has cameras like this one, it catches you coming and going, including my license plate. These digital images can be retrieved on a computer and e-mailed to police. Schools in North Carolina are trying to make busses more noticeable. Compare this bus to one with new electronic lights and signs. But some say tougher laws are needed to change driver behavior.

DALE FOLWELL, NORTH CAROLINA STATE HOUSE: People lose children for lots of reasons, unfortunately. And this doesn't have to be one of them.

HUNTER: North Carolina lawmaker Dale Folwell and his wife, Cynthia, lost their son, Dalton, in 1999. The seven-year-old was hit in front of their home as he tried to board his bus. What happened to the person that hit your son?

FOLWELL: She received 100 hours of community service after she killed our child.

HUNTER: Did she ever spend a day in jail?

FOLWELL: She did not.

HUNTER: Folwell sponsored a state law making it a felony to injury a child by illegally passing. He hopes to prevent other families from suffering the same fate. Near Aaron Woodson's home, this shrine now marks the place where he died coming home from school, a roadside reminder of the consequences of not stopping for a school bus. Greg Hunter, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: One of the dumbest things any of us could ever do. Now, whether your kids are getting off a school bus or just crossing the street, we're told the most dangerous time of the day is mid- afternoon. And a Federal study says 36 percent of the fatal accidents involving school-age pedestrians happen between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m.

Now on to our nightly countdown of the top stories on cnn.com, 16 million of you checked out our website today. At number 10, a New York man charged with helping his wife to kill herself. Authorities say he stood by while she drove the family minivan off a 300-foot cliff. His wife died, but their two children somehow survived because they were strapped into their seats.

Number nine, a mystery south of Fairbanks, Alaska, where canoeists found the body of a beluga whale on a river bank 1,000 miles from salt water. The eight foot whale was about two years old and may have died last fall when that same river froze.

Numbers eight and seven coming up next as we continue with "Driver Beware" tonight. We take a very good hard look at our national fascination with car chase TV.

The chase. Ever since OJ riveting television, two wheels.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, look at this, a wheelie right through traffic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Four wheels and sometimes no wheels at all. But now will a new police weapon end LA's freeway problems?

And crush hour, jammed roads, endless aggravation. There's got to be a better way. Could you be the answer? Surprising changes down the road. All that and more just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Still ahead in our special hour, "Driver Beware." What one thing could end half the traffic jams in this country and without even raising your taxes. Keep guessing. We'll have the answer for you in a little bit. But here is what's happening at this moment. A Pentagon report released late today says unapproved, but not illegal interrogation practices have been used on some Iraqi detainees, including feeding some of them just bread and water for more than 17 days at a time. And the remains of three detainees who hanged themselves at Guantanamo are on their way home to their home countries tonight.

Louisiana Democrat William Jefferson is blaming politics for his ejection from a powerful committee seat. Jefferson says he's not one of House minority leader Nancy Pelosi's favorite people. He also happens to be the subject of a criminal bribery probe.

And the end of a bizarre murder trial in California. Susan Polk is guilty of the 2002 stabbing death of her therapist husband in their home near San Francisco. Polk acted as her own lawyer, discussed her psychic powers and even cross-examined her own sons. One supported her. One supported her husband that is. She faces 15 years to life.

We are calling tonight's program "Driver Beware." We came outside because it is a really, really nice night to do that. And behind me is Columbus Circle, where several major New York city streets come together and cars and trucks and busses and bicycles, pedestrians, even horse-drawn carriages squeeze through here. It's usually the perfect place for gridlock. But people are very sensible here tonight. It's so nice that they're walking, so none of that gridlock we usually see.

But in Los Angeles, of course, gridlock comes on a much bigger scale, giant traffic tie-ups on miles and miles of multi-lane freeways and LA has another freeway phenomenon. High speed car chases that turn into a spectator sport with TV helicopters zooming overhead and millions of people tuning in. We asked Ted Rowlands to find out why LA is so car chase crazy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unbelievable. Look at that. He's out of control. Head-on into a pickup truck.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They play out on a daily basis in California and many times end up on TV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's four vehicles that he just ran into.

ROWLANDS: Police chases, which some consider the ultimate in reality television.

JUDY GRAFFE, PURSUIT WATCHER: I have to tune in.

ROWLANDS: Judy Graffe, along with thousands of other viewers, love to watch people on the freeways and streets of California trying to get away from the police. Judy is such a fanatic that she actually subscribes to a service that alerts her with a phone call when a chase is under way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa, look at that, right between those two cars.

GRAFFE: No one single car chase is like another. Anything from what neighborhoods they go to, to the speeds they travel, to who it turns out they are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There he goes. He's out and in the lanes of traffic.

ROWLANDS: Over the years, there have been some memorable California chases. There was the stolen tank in San Diego. There was the hijacked bus in Los Angeles, the driver careening through the streets like a real life version of the movie "Speed" without the Hollywood ending.

GRAFFE: That one was absolutely fascinating to imagine somebody hijacking a bus and thinking they could get away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's over 120 miles an hour.

ROWLANDS: Police have chased practically everything on wheels, from motorcycles --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, look at this, a wheelie right through traffic.

ROWLANDS: ...to RVs. This chase lasted more than four hours, part of it off road. Everyone seemed relieved when this ended.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nature called.

ROWLANDS: 7-Up received some free advertising while police pursued this stolen truck. There's even been a case of ambulance chasing, literally. Sometimes a suspect runs. Many times they give up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it's a foot chase. We'll see if the officers -- he runs out of steam.

ROWLANDS: This person decided to turn things around, putting the car into reverse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very bizarre behavior.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It went through the interchange continuing northbound on the 405.

ROWLANDS: And of course there was the ultimate celebrity pursuit, OJ, the slow speed chase seen live around the world.

GRAFFE: Who knew where that was going to go? It was anybody's guess. And so I think that sort of hooked me into car chases.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will take you back to regular programming now.

ROWLANDS: Interrupting television programming to show chases started before OJ. It has been a part of southern California life since the early '90s.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've been live with you now just about an hour here on channel 9 following this.

OFFICER JOE ZIZI, CALIF. HIGHWAY PATROL: These people do not want to go to jail.

ROWLANDS: Joe Zizi is an officer with the California Highway Patrol who has been in a number of chases. He says people may enjoy watching them on TV, but for officers involved, it is very dangerous.

ZIZI: Who knows, you could be -- you could be chasing after America's most wanted suspect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at the smoke coming off his tires as he brakes. Oh, he hit that car, hit that car. He jumps out the window.

ZIZI: About 60 to 70 percent of people that flee are either driving a stolen vehicle or under the influence of drugs or alcohol or are wanted by the police.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who knows what is going through his mind.

ROWLANDS: Some of these chases go on for hours. Some become standoffs, leaving television anchors to speculate about anything so they can fill time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's probably so blotto, he's just belligerent as all get-out.

GRAFFE: I'm fascinated at how the anchors call the car chase. I mean, it's a little bit like a play-by-play in a sports event.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going off the road. He's spinning out, spinning out. Whoa, he's going down the hill, spinning out, it's rolling over. One, two, three.

ROWLANDS: Sometimes drivers know they are on TV and play to the audience. This guy made the time to show everyone his softer side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just mooned them.

ROWLANDS: This woman being pursued even stopped to talk to bystanders who had come outside after watching the pursuit on TV.

ZIZI: We've had several citizens watching on television, see that it's approaching their house and get outside to either try and cheer the suspect on or try and get involved to stop the suspect.

ROWLANDS: In this chase, police got some help from a couple of truckers who saw the chase coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like these big rigs are doing it on purpose. This is great.

ROWLANDS: And sandwiched the suspect between them. Police don't encourage the general public to intervene. They have their own tactics to try to put the brakes on chases.

GRAFFE: You've got the spike strips. You've got the pit maneuver.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're putting out another spike strip to blow out the rear tires.

ROWLANDS: The spike strip flattens tires but doesn't stop cars cold like this driver who continued for miles until the SUV actually started to fall to pieces. This is what's called a pit maneuver, which is used to disable a vehicle.

ZIZI: We're going to get up alongside that vehicle, bump it, push it to a side, make it spin out and hopefully incapacitate, stall out the engine.

ROWLANDS: But it's not always an immediate success. The newest weapon for police is a satellite tracking device they can actually shoot onto a vehicle which allows them to back off a bit and keep officers out of danger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's getting out. He's starting to run.

ROWLANDS: Many times the suspects are armed. When they are, the chase can have a violent ending.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going to run. Oh, he just got shot. Oh, my God!

ROWLANDS: As for the question of why so many chases here, many people think California is unique because there are more freeways and more cars. But Los Angeles police Chief William Bratton points to the people.

WILLIAM BRATTON, LA POLICE CHIEF: There are a lot of nuts here. That's what makes it so unique, to be quite frank with you.

ROWLANDS: Ted Rowlands, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Oh! And the truth is the numbers here. According to the Los Angeles police department, its officers were involved, believe it or not, in more than 600 chases last year alone. As the police chief just said, that would make it an awful lot of nuts.

Coming up next in our special "Driver Beware" get an inside look at one of the most dangerous jobs in America for police officers. Why is even a routine night scary and sometimes deadly? And do you think wider roads might be the answer to traffic jams? Well, maybe not. See why wider isn't always better.

But first, number eight on the countdown of the top 10 stories on cnn.com, 18 million of you logging on, earthquake in North Carolina. A 3.1 magnitude quake shook buildings and rattled dishes in western North Carolina. Fortunately, no damage or injuries reported. It is the seventh noticeable quake in that area in the past year alone. Number seven, a tragedy in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Officials say a woman jumped off a bridge with a child. The one-year-old girl died. The woman survived and is in critical condition tonight. Number six and five straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: All right. If you're wondering why we're joining you outside, it's a glorious summer night. We know you are playing and we thought we'd get a little taste of summer, but more important that we actually get a bird's eye view of all the traffic moving out of the city tonight and we have a very special hour for you called "Driver Beware. And we continue that special now with some absolutely incredible video. Cameras mounted on the dash boards of police cruisers have captured some pretty astonishing things. If you've ever wondered what it's like to be a police officer stopping a stranger along the highway, get ready for a shocking dose of reality. Here's Jason Carroll.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much have you had to drink tonight?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One night an Ohio state trooper pulled over a motorist for driving erratically. The dash camera in the officer's patrol car captures how a traffic stop quickly escalates into a deadly struggle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you doing?

CARROLL: The driver draws a gun but drops it. Both men wrestle for the weapon and with each other for several moments until the officer manages to retrieve his gun. The trooper shoots the driver in the head and kills him. It's a dramatic example of what officers call one of their biggest concerns while out on patrol. Routine traffic stops. that turn out to be far from routine. A driver who wants to fight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't fight me, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because. Don't fight me. Ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm already in trouble.

CARROLL: Again, a struggle for a weapon. The officer in this case is eventually forced to shoot the woman. She does not survive. Michigan state trooper Joel Service says most officers now need to be prepared for just about anything. Service had his own run-in with an unruly driver who led him and fellow officers on a high speed chase. The suspect rammed his vehicle into Service's patrol car, locking them together.

JOEL SERVICE, MICHIGAN STATE POLICE: I don't know, I must have been trained pretty well, because I think I was able to handle the situation pretty well. I didn't lose control. I was able to kind of keep my wits about me.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Good morning.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICERS: Good morning, trooper.

CARROLL: Teaching recruits about the hazards of traffic stops is a major part of the training program for Connecticut state police. It goes way beyond the classroom.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Sir, I clocked you for 77 miles an hour in a 65 miles an hour zone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that's impossible.

CARROLL: Thanks to dashboard cameras and cop shows on TV, most recruits have already seen how real-life situations like this one can become dangerous in a hurry.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: You're going to 1000, sir you'll stop. Whoa. Drop the gun. Drop the gun.

CARROLL: Eventually, this woman gave up and was taken into custody.

(on camera): When the recruits come in, are they asking, do you find are they asking better questions, having seen some of that stuff out there in the media?

STAN TERRY, CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE: They ask better questions. They're very familiar with police tactics.

CARROLL (voice-over): Because dash cam video is now so prevalent, most drivers who are stopped these days almost certainly know they're being taped. That doesn't always stop them from becoming violent.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: I placed you under arrest. I'm not going to let you go back to that vehicle.

CARROLL: Not even this driver's children can convince him to stop punching the officer.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: Dad, no. No, dad.

CARROLL: Some state troopers say all of the dramatic dash cam tapes might give a false impression.

(on camera): Are people worse now than they were many years ago when you were patrolling?

TERRY: I don't think so.

CARROLL: Are we seeing it more because of the dash cam?

TERRY: I think the dash cam is adding a lot more to public awareness of what's going on out there. I don't think people's behavior changed drastically.

CARROLL (voice-over): Even show, Michigan state trooper Joel Service has this advice for recruits about traffic stops.

SERVICE: Be aware of the fact that it could happen, and it does happen. At some point in time in an officer's career, it is going to happen to him. He needs to be ready for it when it does.

CARROLL: In this kind of work, it's very dangerous to think that anything is routine.

Jason Carroll, CNN, Meridian, Connecticut.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Amazing stuff. One more thing. As dash cams have become less expensive, some drivers are installing them as electronic eyewitnesses in case of an accident.

Of course, you don't have to be a police officer to be at risk on the highway. Coming up in our special hour, a story that may really make you mad. Why are some accidents no accident at all, who's causing them on purpose. And how are they soaking you.

Plus, what one thing would cut down on half of all traffic congestion in this country? Keep on guessing. We're going to have the answer for you in a little bit. But right now we're going to move on to number six in our CNN.com countdown. 2003 American idol winner Ruben Studdard wins a lawsuit against his ex-manager, Studdard was awarded $2 million after a judge in Alabama found that the manager took nearly $250,000 from him.

Number five, rapper Jay-Z is in a verbal feud with the company that makes high end Crystal champagne or Crystal, if you want to call it that, a favorite of rappers. Jay-Z accuses an executive of racism for recent comments in a magazine article. He plans to pull Crystal from his chain of sports lounges.

Number four and three right after the break. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back. Here's what's happening at this moment. Most of America is still not ready to face a full-blown disaster like a terrorist attack. That's the stunning conclusion of a homeland security report that found only 10 of the 50 states are sufficiently prepared for catastrophes.

Wildfires south of Albuquerque shut down interstate 25 and triggered some evacuations today. Dry conditions and lightning strikes also set nearly 7,000 acres on fire in New Mexico's Hebo national forest, forcing evacuations there as well and threatening dozens of homes.

And a very disappointed Tiger Woods, that picture doesn't reflect his disappointment. This was taken, well, maybe that one does, after his streak was broken. Woods made the cut in 39 straight major tournaments. That was, at least until today. At the U.S. open in Westchester, New York, he missed that cut by just three strokes. It is his first major tournament since the death of his father.

Now, from any point in Manhattan, New York seems like an endless grid of streets, stop lights and pedestrians, but if you leave the city, you go over a bridge, or through a tunnel, you will soon find yourself on a highway through the suburbs, where the traffic jams are as slow and tedious as anywhere in the country. And that got all of us wondering, can't traffic planners do anything to make highways run more smoothly? From Los Angeles, Tom Foreman has the answers we've all been waiting for.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rush hour in Los Angeles lasts from 5:00 until 9:00. That's 5:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night, and this is coming your way. Especially if you live in a large city, where studies show delays already devour 47 hours of your life every year. But not if Mark Pisano can help it.

MARK PISANO, SOUTHERN CALIF. ASSN. OF GOVT.: We need to think differently how we grow and develop.

FOREMAN: He runs a southern California association working to make bad traffic better.

PISANO: Each city cannot be an island unto themselves. They need to, they're now impacting on their neighbors. And, further more, within large cities, the communities are impacting one another.

FOREMAN: At first glance, solving L.A.'s problem of too many people, about 18 million, and too little highway would seem to be simple. Solution one, add more lanes. But experience has shown when highways expand, businesses and neighborhoods expand right along with them, eating the extra roadway as fast as it's built. Solution two, encourage car pools. Good idea. Problem is carpool lanes are faster, so drivers think they can live further from their jobs. That promotes sprawl and ultimately more cars coming from afar. Solution three, more public transit. Another nice idea, but in most cities, the number of new buses and trains it would take to make a difference is staggering. Just ask planning director Hasan Ikhrata.

HASAN IKHRATA, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ASSN. OF GOVT.: (inaudible) 48 million daily trips.

FOREMAN: Forty-eight million daily trips.

IKHRATA: We have in this region. We have about 2 percent public transportation.

FOREMAN: So what can work? Well, traffic planning experts say maybe this, more planned communities, built around jobs, houses, shopping and recreation, all in one relatively small place.

Maybe this: More driver education.

This allows people to test things that previously they could never test, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct.

FOREMAN: They want commuters to see what computer models now show so well, how even one car stopped by an accident or poor maintenance can have an enormous impact.

PISANO: About 50 percent of our congestion could be solved if we had drivers doing everything perfectly.

FOREMAN: That's right. Fifty percent of congestion could be ended not with better roads, but with better drivers. And maybe this: They want you, business people, commuters, casual drivers, to pay more for the congestion you cause. Through toll roads, fees on new housing developments or shopping areas. They hope this, along with soaring gas prices and tedious traffic jams, will finally convince you to change the way you live.

IKHRATA: They have to live in more dense areas around transit stations. They have to use transit.

FOREMAN: Yes, but I don't want to do that. Nobody wants to do that.

IKHRATA: And I will contend that if people try it, they might like it.

FOREMAN: Or maybe not. As it is, over the next 20 years, L.A.'s highways are expected to pick up another 6 million drivers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll start to slow here just south of the 134. And from that point, stay slow...

FOREMAN: Tom Foreman, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And you can see more of Tom's reports on "ANDERSON COOPER 360" at 10:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

Now, some car wrecks aren't really accidents at all. Stay with us to see how thieves are forcing unsuspecting drivers into very costly wrecks. Are you at risk?

And then a little bit later on, Jeanne Moos has found the perfect song for millions and millions and millions of SUV drivers. Could it be your song, too?

Now on to our CNN.com countdown. Britney Spears may go where Brad and Angelina did to have their baby, in Namibia. Baby in Namibia? No, her baby in Namibia. There we go. Officials there have received an inquiry on behalf of the pop star to go there to give birth to her second child. Nothing confirmed just yet, but we will if it's going to happen.

Number three, from the other end of the celebrity spectrum, Oscar winner Paul Newman, who is now 81, says he'll probably make one more movie. His voice is currently featured in the animated film "Cars." And he says when it's time to get out, it's time to get out. But he still has one more film project in mind.

Numbers two and one still ahead. I'll go, Paul. I'll come see that movie.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And welcome back on a beautiful late spring night here in New York City. Our special hour, "Driver Beware."

Something we all need to beware of is the driver in the other lane, which is why this next report could make you absolutely furious. It's about a crime that's becoming more and more common, deliberately staged crashes, intended to collect insurance money. Peter Viles shows us exactly how it works.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Miguel Perez works hard for a living. He sometimes drives a truck. Almost two years ago on an L.A. freeway, he did something he thought would get him fired. It started when the car ahead of him suddenly stopped.

MIGUEL PEREZ, STAGED CRASH VICTIM: He slammed on his brake, and this -- I tried swerving to the right to miss him, but I clipped him in the back.

VILES: Next, Perez did what anyone would do.

PEREZ: I asked the guy, why did you stop? And his answer was that he didn't want to hit the car in front of him.

VILES: And then Perez realized he would probably lose his job over the accident.

PEREZ: Usually when you hit somebody from behind, you're always at fault.

VILES: What authorities later told him is that he had been set up, victimized by a staged crash technique so common there's a name for it.

MARTIN GONZALEZ, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF INSURANCE: What we call the swoop and squat. And that's probably the most dangerous, because those are typically orchestrated on the freeway or your busier surface streets.

VILES: Here's a swoop and squat demonstration staged by the insurance agency, in which the green car is the victim. Now, let's watch in slow motion. The gray car is the swoop car. It swoops in, causing the black car, the squat car, to slam on the brakes, causing the green car, the victim car, to rear-end it.

ELEANOR BIGOLSKI, DEPUTY DA: I've seen men being targeted, women being targeted, truck drivers being targeted, female truck drivers, male truck drivers. I've seen it all.

VILES: Then come the false insurance claims, usually for back and neck injuries from several passengers in the squat car.

GONZALEZ: It's all money. There's a lot of money to be made. In California alone, it's billions of dollars every year going to fraudulent claims.

VILES: The numbers are staggering. The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud estimates $14 billion a year in auto insurance fraud, much of it from staged crashes. And they can be deadly. Authorities say these were staged crashes. Long Beach, California, 1997, an innocent family of three burned to death. Queens, New York, 2003, a 71-year-old grandmother crushed to death. And Lawrence, Massachusetts, 2003. This time the victim, a 64-year-old woman, was allegedly part of the fraud ring, but didn't survive the wreck.

Now, Miguel Perez was lucky. He wasn't injured. And a whistle- blower spotted the fraud in time to save his job.

PEREZ: I was stunned when she told me that it was staged.

VILES: So what can you do to avoid becoming a victim? Well, first of all, don't tailgate. Keep a safe distance.

(on camera): If you feel like you're being watched too closely by another driver or followed by another driver, you need to pull back and change lanes. Even if that means getting off the freeway.

Peter Viles for CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And that is "LARRY KING LIVE" city. He is coming up in just a few minutes at the top of the hour. How are you doing, Larry?

LARRY KING, HOST, LARRY KING LIVE: I'm here. Where are you?

ZAHN: We're on that fabulous balcony off the newsroom overlooking Columbus Circle. We'd like to make this our permanent studio out here. It's kind of nice on a hot spring night.

KING: Is this is the new bit, roof -- roof CNN?

ZAHN: I don't know. Let's see if we can make it a permanent part of our, you know, little playbook here.

KING: I'm an air condition guy. I like it inside.

ZAHN: I know, but you're spoiled in Los Angeles.

OK, what are you doing tonight? KING: Anyway, tonight we're here in New York with a panel of five doctors talking about new advances and ideas in medicine. Deepak Chopra, Dr. Nicholas Perricone, Dr. Michael Roizen, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Andrew Weil. We're going to discuss everything from cancer to obesity to diabetes. And with revelations, new revelations in all those subjects. And viewer phone calls, all in about 10 minutes.

ZAHN: A lot of doctors there tonight. Guess what we're going to have this weekend, a lot of father power. Happy father's day Larry and congratulations on your book.

KING: Thank you, dear.

ZAHN: We've just put the jacket cover up there.

KING: Thank you.

ZAHN: "My Dad and Me." I guess your sons are too young to buy a copy of that for you?

KING: I read it to them.

ZAHN: That's good, good bedtime reading. Alright Larry, see you next week when you're in New York.

(MARKET REPORT)

ZAHN: In preparation for CNN's coverage of World Refugee Day, next Tuesday, Anderson Cooper will sit down across from activist Angelina Jolie. And they talked about the first time she visited an African refugee camp.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Have you ever seen anything like that before?

ANGELINA JOLIE, ACTRESS: I haven't seen anything like that, and I don' think anyone has. It was one of those things where you, in so many ways, it was, I was so grateful to have had that experience and I knew I was changing as a person, I was learning so much about life and I was, so in some ways it was the best moment of my life because it changed me for the better and I was never going to be, never going to want for more in my life.

COOPER: How did it change you?

JOLIE: Well, I was young and I grew up in Los Angeles and I'm an actor, so everything is very focused on certain things in life. Then suddenly you see these people who are really fighting something, who are really surviving, who have so much pain and loss and things that you have no idea.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And more of Angelina and Anderson at 10:00 p.m. next Tuesday night.

Number two in the CNN.com countdown, the plight of wives in Senegal whose husbands by the thousands leave for months or years to find work in Europe. More than half the people in Senegal live below the poverty line.

Number one, not making this one up on our driver beware hour, in Idaho, a woman and child die in a car crash and I hate to report this one but a severed head flies out of one of the vehicles, but the head had nothing to do with that accident at all. It actually belonged to a murder victim. The driver who survived the crash now suspected of killing his wife and decapitating her. Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: All right. It's a show off night here, absolutely, glorious, clear, late spring night. As you can hear, there's still a fair amount of traffic down there below me on Columbus circle and perfect for our special tonight, driver beware. Here's one for the road for you. We've all seen women piling those huge SUVs, a sight that strikes a change chord with our Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You would dance, too, if it were your song. Step on the gas and pump up the volume.

(MUSIC)

ROZANNE GATES, SONGWRITER: It's a national phenomenon. The cars are getting bigger and the ladies are getting smaller. And they practically need a step ladder to get up into these rigs.

MOOS: Rozanne Gates and Suzy Sheridan drive the opposite of an SUV.

Everywhere they drive around Westport, Connecticut, they see little women driving big SUVs.

GATES: There goes one.

MOOS: So they penned a song about it.

SUZANNE SHERIDAN, SONGWRITER: It's something that's meant to be lighthearted.

MOOS: There goes one. Wait there goes one. Hey.

SHERIDAN: There goes another one, yeah.

MOOS: Oh, look, she's 90 pounds.

SHERIDAN: Yes, she's our next door neighbor.

(MUSIC)

MOOS: Speaking of wives, you're a couple.

SHERIDAN: Yeah, we are.

GATES: You don't say a couple of what.

MOOS: Sealed with a civil union. They want America to wean itself off oil, and they are hoping their SUV song drives home the point.

(MUSIC)

MOOS: They had a singer in Nashville record the song. It started to take off when the radio show "Car Talk" played it. Now you can buy it on iTunes. It's no wonder that people who don't drive SUVs like it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is so true.

MOOS: But it seems to strike a chord even with those it skewers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it is so dead on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's pretty funny.

MOOS: In fact, the only quibble female SUV drivers had was with the 90-pound part.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ninety isn't it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a little more than 90 pounds, but this is awesome.

(MUSIC)

MOOS: Rozanne and Suzy dream of a certain singer for their song.

Dolly Parton?

GATES: Yes.

SHERIDAN: Please, you've got to do this song.

GATES: This is going to be the biggest hit you have ever had.

MOOS: But so far, Dolly hasn't bitten.

GATES: You have an SUV.

MOOS: Yes, but we have all this equipment we have to carry.

(MUSIC)

MOOS: If you really want to get mileage out of this song, try making sightings while you listen.

GATES: She's got her cell phone in her ear. MOOS: She's talking, baby!

Jeanne Moos, CNN, Westport, Connecticut.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And I got one more thing to add, the SUV ladies said they couldn't get Dolly Parton to record their song even though she told them she loved it. So now they've set their sights on the Dixie Chicks. Go girls, go. And that wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Thanks so much for joining us. Please drive safely, have a great weekend. We'll be back here, same time, same place, Monday night, but in the meantime for all of your dads out there, Happy Father's Day. Kids don't forget, alright, there's your warning.

"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now. Again, have a great night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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