Nearly all of us have witnessed an incident of road rage. It’s scary to see. Whether out of frustration, stress, or anger, road raging drivers lose their tempers and use their cars as a way to vent their emotions. They speed. They tailgate. They honk. They race. They flash their lights. They try to run other vehicles off the road.
Road rage is illegal, and its victims deserve compensation for the harm they suffer. An experienced car accident lawyer can fight to get it for them.
Road Rage Behaviors
A report by AAA Exchange spells out the various aggressive behaviors typical of a road-raging driver.
All of these behaviors can hurt other motorists:
Verbalizing anger behind the wheel – Road raging drivers often curse, scream, and yell, sometimes to themselves and sometimes at another driver on the road.
Physical actions behind the wheel – Road raging drivers will lash out physically, such as by slamming the steering wheel with their hands, banging on the sides of their cars through an open window, or gesturing obscenely.
Intentional annoyance tactics – Road raging drivers may try to annoy or distract other drivers. They may flash their brights, honk, or menacingly rev their engines.
Dangerous vehicle maneuvers – Finally, road rage drivers use their vehicles as tools of aggression toward other drivers by speeding up, slowing down, tailgating, crowding a lane, and even intentionally colliding with another vehicle.
Through these and similar behaviors, road raging drivers allow their own anger to control the operation of their vehicles. At a minimum, they can impair a driver’s judgment and ability to react appropriately to road conditions. At worst, they turn a driver’s vehicle into a deadly weapon.
Factors Contributing to Road Rage
Most of us at one time or another have felt angry while behind the wheel, although we hopefully have enough self-restraint to stop that anger from boiling over into road rage.
Countless factors can trigger driver anger, although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that anger frequently feeds off emotional fuel resulting from:
Traffic congestion – Few experiences feel like more of a waste of time than getting stuck in a traffic jam. Aggravation rises with every passing minute that a driver spends sitting behind the wheel while inching forward at a snail’s pace or not moving at all.
Lack of time – Many drivers leave late or fail to leave themselves a cushion of time to account for potential traffic delays. The stress of running behind schedule can cause tension that, for some drivers, explodes into road rage.
Self-centeredness/lack of empathy – Drivers who succumb to road rage may have difficulty empathizing with others. They believe that laws do not apply to them, or ignore the impact of their own actions on others.
Cloak of anonymity – The interior of a vehicle is a sort of bubble that can make drivers feel separated and isolated from other motorists, the vast majority of whom are strangers to the driver. The anonymity of driving can lead some drivers to feel unaccountable to others for road rage.
None of these factors excuses road rage. It does not matter if road rage results from outside stressors, like traffic or a lack of time, or personal characteristics, like self-centeredness or a feeling of anonymity. By giving in to road rage, drivers put themselves and others with whom they share the road in danger. They should face legal liability to anyone harmed by their actions.
Attorneys Pursue Legal Liability for Harm Caused by Road Rage
Drivers who engage in road rage may face legal consequences for their actions. Their behaviors often constitute crimes and also result in them facing financial liability to their victims. An experienced car accident lawyer can recover compensation from the road raging driver and also works to protect victims’ rights in connection with the driver facing criminal charges.
Holding Road Rage Drivers Financially Accountable to Victims
An experienced attorney can help victims of road raging drivers in any of the following scenarios:
An accident with a road raging driver. Motorists injured in a car accident between their vehicle and the one driven by a road raging driver typically have a legal claim for damages against the driver for monetary damages—not just the physical harm but the intentional infliction of emotional distress as well.
Accidents caused by a road raging driver’s dangerous actions. A road raging driver will also face legal liability for damages to victims of an accident caused by the driver’s actions, even if the driver’s own vehicle is not in that accident. For example, a road rager may face legal liability for aggressive driving behaviors that disrupt traffic and lead to a collision between two other vehicles.
No matter how a road raging driver harmed you or a loved one, you may have the right to hold that driver financially accountable. An experienced attorney can help you obtain payments for your medical costs (including the costs of mental health services), other related expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.
Enabling Victims to Participate in Prosecutions of Road Ragers
Road rage is a crime. Prosecutors may file charges against a road raging driver for specific violations of the motor vehicle code, or for effectively using a vehicle as a means of committing a violent crime. In deciding whether to prosecute a road raging driver, prosecutors will often seek input from the driver’s victims.
An experienced road rage accident attorney can work with the victim and the prosecutors to manage the victim’s participation in a prosecution. The attorney can also work to protect the victim’s legal rights to seek financial compensation from the road raging driver.
A criminal prosecution and a civil claim for damages against the driver are two separate legal actions. Of course, a criminal conviction of a road rage driver can help the driver’s victims prove a case for damages. However, you may have the right, as a victim of a road rager, to seek compensation even if the prosecutor decides not to press charges, or if the road rage driver is acquitted of a crime. Your claim for damages does not depend on whether the road rage driver faces criminal justice.
If You Encounter a Road-Raging Driver…
…do not panic. By taking simple, defensive measures, you may avoid the driver’s wrath and keep yourself out of harm’s way.
Keep your cool and do not engage. Fighting back is a natural response to aggression, but it can have deadly consequences behind the wheel. Rather than respond with your own shouts, gestures, or erratic driving behavior, try not to engage at all. Find a safe place to turn off the road and call the police.
Yield when possible. Road raging reflects, in some sense, a misguided and dangerous effort by a driver to impose his will on fellow drivers. Again, many people’s natural reaction to that kind of effort is to resist. However, as drivers, often our safest choice is to yield to the road rager, either by slowing down, moving over to allow the rager to pass, or pulling off the road altogether.
Be vigilant, not a vigilante. If you encounter a road rager, report it to the police immediately by calling 911. Tell the police what you can safely observe about the road raging driver. Do not, however, try to catch up with or head off the road raging driver on your own. That will inevitably put you and others at risk of serious injury.
In other words, do not let someone else’s rage fuel your own intense emotions. Fight the urge to retaliate and, instead, remain calm, cool, and collected. Call the authorities, report what you see, and prioritize your own safety.
If a Road Raging Driver Causes an Accident that Harms You…
…then know that you have significant legal rights under the law.
By taking some simple steps, you can protect those rights and improve your chances of obtaining the compensation you deserve for any physical or emotional injuries the road raging driver causes.
Call 911 and report what happened. Make sure you tell the dispatcher that your accident involves a driver who was road raging, so that police arrive at the scene prepared to deal with a potentially dangerous individual.
If possible, remain in your vehicle until first responders arrive. Do not risk getting into a dangerous confrontation with an angry, irrational driver. If you cannot remain in your vehicle safely, then avoid a confrontation with the driver as best you can.
If the driver flees the scene, stay put. Do not give chase. Do your best to get a good look at the road raging driver and vehicle. If you have time, use your cell phone to capture a photo of the vehicle and license plate.
Seek medical attention on-scene and afterward. Let EMTs check you over and follow instructions if they recommend an ambulance ride to the hospital. No matter what, follow up with your primary care doctor or at an urgent care clinic within 24 hours for a full exam that documents your injuries and addresses potential complications.
Photograph and video record the scene, if it’s safe to do so. Take photos of every aspect of the scene, including skid marks, road conditions, vehicle damage, and road signs (such as speed limits). Take note of any traffic cameras or potential locations where security cameras may have captured the accident (banks, ATMs, retail establishments).
Through these simple measures, you can accomplish two important goals: keeping yourself safe and healthy, and generating evidence that will help to prove a case against the road raging driver for damages. However, even if you do not follow these steps, a lawyer can pursue your right to compensation from the road rager who harmed you.