In the same way that online anonymity emboldens people to act in a way they simply wouldn’t if face-to-face with somebody, so it can be the same on our roads.
The anonymity and feeling of protection that sitting in our car can give creates a false sense of security that sometimes makes us act in a way we wouldn’t otherwise.
How many of us have been minimally inconvenienced by another driver and have reacted by shouting, gesturing and swearing at them in a way we never would if they had stepped in front of us on the sidewalk?
So road rage is a situation that can cause otherwise perfectly calm and rational people to react emotionally, sometimes violently.
You may not be aware of the statistics, but in the last seven years, there have been more than 200 murders in the US as a direct result of road rage incidents. When you add to that the official statistic of 12,000 injuries as a result of road rage, you can see it’s not harmless.
Road rage is a crime and it can generate behaviors that lead to other crimes being committed. Road rage is often classified as aggressive driving, which can result in arrest, a fine, or even imprisonment.
How Is Road Rage Defined?
Although it may not have been made particularly clear to you when you were learning to drive, every driver on the road in our country is legally obligated. They are expected to drive carefully, exercise caution, and show respect.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration classifies road rage within the broader classification of “aggressive driving”.
Some of the behaviors classified as aggressive driving are:
- Illegally passing
- Failure to yield
- Passing on the inside
- Passing through red lights
- Aggressive and frequent crossing between lanes
- Ignoring traffic signs and signals
Now, sitting here reading this, you can see that all those behaviors are potentially dangerous to you and others on the road. Once you are in your protective metal bubble, sometimes that clarity disappears.
To throw another staggering statistic at you, a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study found that aggressive driving may play a role in nearly 60% of all fatal accidents in the US each year.
Accidents caused by road rage are often more severe as well, because the driver is agitated and acting in an aggressive manner. They tend to be swerving around more, driving without attention, driving faster, and less able to react to things around them.
What You Should Do If Confronted By A Road Rage Situation
As you now know, road rage falls within the parameters of aggressive driving, and if you get caught up in such an incident, you can be committing a crime.
If you are put in a situation on the road where you become agitated, or somebody else becomes agitated, it’s very important that you think clearly and avoid escalating the situation.
Most of these are common sense, but by stating them here, hopefully you will remember them next time you are in a confrontational incident in your car:
- Remember that you are both human and both could be at fault.
- Ask yourself if you would react the same way if that person was standing in front of you, rather than sitting in your cars.
- Do not react as if in a competition. If somebody pulls up in the next lane intent on speeding away, you don’t have to race them.
- Recognize when somebody is completely out of control emotionally, and that nothing you will do can defuse that mood.
- If possible, slow down, move out of the way and allow the other driver to go on their way.
- Never gesture, make eye contact, or act aggressively with your body language, or the movements of your vehicle.
- Look out for people who try to provoke or cause provocation through their driving, for example aggressive tailgating.
- Tell yourself this situation does not have to escalate, and try to regulate your breathing to stay calm. By reducing your heart rate and focusing on your breathing, you can reduce rising adrenaline.
These are just general ideas to help, and obviously may not be applicable in every situation. If the other person is intent on seeing through a confrontation to the end, then you may not be able to resolve it peacefully, or by yourself.
In those circumstances look to get off the road as soon as possible, to somewhere populated. If you can pull into a busy gas station for example, that person is less likely to pull up, jump out of their vehicle and attack you.
And if you don’t feel safe pulling over, and the person who is suffering from road rage continues to harass you, seemingly intent on following you and resolving it violently, then dial 911. Explain the situation, tell the officer exactly where you are and give details of the person harassing you.
What Are My Legal Rights Around Road Rage?
If you have been a victim of road rage that has led to an accident, then you could be entitled to compensation.
Aggressive driving is a crime, and that person could be made to pay for their negligence.
If you are injured, or somebody else was hurt, or even killed, because of road rage, then you could be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. We understand that no amount of money is compensation for poor health or the loss of a loved one, but it can alleviate some problems.
So if you feel you may be entitled to compensation, then please contact our experienced attorneys today. We will be able to advise you on the best course of action, and ensure that whatever happens, you do not have to experience the same worry and upset that you did during the road rage incident.