BY Shulamit Shvartsman for Lawyers.comsm
If you've spent any time on the road, it's likely you've come across road rage or aggressive drivers. Perhaps you were even the aggressor or initiator. It's difficult to be passive when someone purposely provokes you. However, you never know who's in the other car.
You can't assess another driver's sanity or motivation for reckless behavior. You're better off taking a deep breath, slowing down and not provoking these aggressive and reckless drivers.
What Is Aggressive and Careless Driving?
Aggressive and careless driving is a traffic offense and can include several other offenses such as:
- Changing lanes recklessly
- Following too closely
- Not signaling before changing lanes
- Other types of negligent driving
Road rage is more serious than aggressive driving and can be considered a criminal offense. It usually involves a driver becoming so angry over a certain incident he overreacts and retaliates on the road with some type of violent behavior. Reactions can range from threats to actual physical confrontation. Even an assault using the car or other weapon.
As roads are becoming more congested, road rage incidents seem to be on the rise. In Sacramento, California a woman and her boyfriend were involved in a car chase by an apparently enraged man. The man chased the couple along a curvy mountain road. Then he stopped his truck next to their car and shot and killed the boyfriend. The driver then shot himself.
The woman explained to police that neither she nor her boyfriend knew the driver and he came out of nowhere and began making obscene gestures at them. He then attempted to engage the couple in reckless games on the road before he began shooting.
In another road rage incident, Gabriel Poventud opened the door to his car while on the shoulder of a highway and fired 13 shots at a nearby truck. His 2-year-old daughter was in the car with him at the time.
Before he shot at the truck, the police explained that Poventud and the truck driver, James Bringham, drove recklessly for four miles on the highway. The truck hit the car, a Jaguar, twice, before Poventud began shooting. The cars returned to the highway and continued their chase until a state trooper stopped the drivers.
While no one was inured, frightened drivers on the road reported them to the police. Poventud was sent to jail without bond on five offenses. Bringham has been cited for reckless driving.
When questioned about this incident, the police reminded drivers not to engage aggressive drivers because you never know what may happen.
Avoid Being a Victim
Since you never know the mental state of other drivers and their anger levels, you're better off not engaging them in any way. Keep in mind the following safety tips to avoid becoming a victim of road rage:
- Remember that you don't know the other drivers on the road and what they're capable of
- Keep all car doors locked and windows closed or only partially open
- Avoid provoking other drivers by making eye contact, rude gestures or flashing your lights
- Don't ever get out of your car and approach the other driver
- If you think someone may be following you, call the police and drive to the nearest police station or crowded public place
- Avoid driving very close to the car in front of you, or "tailgating"
Many road rage incidents and accidents occur because drivers overreact to other drivers and become carried away. If you're involved in a situation where another driver is provoking you, use your common sense and good judgment rather than engaging the driver.
Also, if you see drivers engaging in road rage or aggressive driving and you think they may be putting themselves or other drivers in danger, you can play a role in making the roads safer by reporting them to the police.
In many states, drivers can easily report aggressive drivers, impaired drivers or other unsafe highway incidents over their cellular phones by calling the police. You may be saving a life by doing so. Remember, if you're in your car, pull over and then make your phone call to the police.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Is road rage a crime separate from other traffic offenses?
- Can I sue a driver who has hurt me on the road through road rage? Or is it just a criminal offense?
- If I cause an accident and my insurance company finds I acted out of road rage, can it deny coverage?