Aggressive Driving and Road Rage
As America’s population continues to rise, traffic on the nation’s roadways continues to become more congested, particularly in more densely populated areas. In fact, in the nation’s largest urban areas – and even in the smaller cities and towns across the country – this traffic congestion is giving rise to a particularly hazardous driving condition: road rage. Road rage is sort of like aggressive driving on steroids. Aggressive driving itself is dangerous and often entails driving too fast, engaging in rapid, frequent, and often unsafe lane changes, following too close, and other unsafe behaviors. Road rage is an escalation of aggressive driving and frequently contains a component of actually wanting to cause harm. As such, while aggressive driving is dangerous, road rage has a much greater potential to result in fatal accidents.How Common is Road Rage?
Federal statistics tend to be conservative when it comes to ascribing causes of accidents that are not clearly empirical. Nonetheless, one federal study found that where driver error was a factor in traffic accidents, 34 percent of those were decision errors related to driving aggressively, including driving too fast or making an improper lane change. Conspicuously absent from the study conclusions are the words “road rage.”
Another federal study likewise found strong evidence of aggressive driving but studiously avoided the use of the words “road rage.” In that study, comparing accidents at intersections versus non-intersection traffic accidents, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration found that 96 percent of accidents at intersections were related to driver errors, while 92 percent of non-intersection crashes likewise were related to driver errors. However, in crashes at intersections, the most frequent errors were due to inadequate surveillance, inaccurate assumptions about what the other driver was going to do, turning with an obstructed view, performing an illegal maneuver, internal distractions, and misjudging the other driver’s speed. The top driver error for non-intersection crashes was aggressive driving or speeding, constituting nearly a quarter of all driver errors.Certain Bad Driving Behaviors are Common in Aggressive Driving and Road Rage
The Governors Highway Safety Association has found that exceeding the posted speed limit is likely the primary symptom of aggressive driving. In 2016, more than 10,000 people died in speeding-related traffic accidents, representing more than 1 in 4 of all traffic deaths.
The NHTSA defines aggressive driving as "committing a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property." Many states have passed laws that specifically target aggressive driving, identifying such violations as running red lights, speeding, failure to yield, following too closely, and improper passing as among the primary behaviors that make up aggressive driving.
While the federal government might be hesitant to use the words, private sectors groups are less reluctant. One analysis of federal statistics concluded that 33 percent of driver-error accidents “could be linked to behaviors typically assigned to road rage.” A recent study conducted by the American Automobile Association found that instances of aggressive driving and road rage are on the rise. The AAA study found that in 2016 about 8 million drivers across the country displayed behaviors typical of extreme road rage. Common angry or aggressive acts found by the AAA study included:
- Intentionally tailgating
- Yelling at another driver
- Angry gestures
- Trying to prohibit another driver from changing lanes
- Intentionally cutting off another vehicle
- Leaving your vehicle to confront another driver
- Intentionally bumping or ramming another vehicle
Another private study likewise found that behaviors most common to road rage include blocking drivers from changing lanes, purposefully running drivers off the road, and using weapons to cause harm to a person or vehicle. While these are the most extreme activities, the study found 80 percent of drivers admit to experiencing at least some type of road rage. Fortunately, far fewer drivers actually act upon their road rage, but about 8 million drivers engage in some activity that can be classified as road rage each year, including ramming other cars from behind and confronting drivers outside their vehicles.
The same study described aggressive driving as any driving action that doesn’t follow the law but doesn’t actually cause harm to another driver or vehicle. While speeding, illegal lane changes, tailgating, and the like are illegal, they are merely aggressive driving when there is no intent to cause harm. Dangerous, yes. Criminal? No.
Road rage crosses the line into criminal behavior when a driver becomes so angry with another driver – or even all other drivers – that the enraged driver performs acts intended to harm others. This might include bumping or ramming other cars, forcing other drivers to stop and then attempting to assault them, and other similar behaviors.
That doesn’t mean aggressive driving is OK. Aggressive driving, including speeding and tailgating, is responsible for roughly two-thirds of all traffic deaths. One-third of all traffic deaths are the result of the primary indicator of aggressive driving – speeding. In 2015, there were more than 35,000 fatal traffic accidents, with 28 percent of those caused by speeding. Alarmingly, one-fourth of those crashes caused by speeding occurred not on highways but on roads with speed limits of less than 25 miles per hour. Less than half of all speeding-related traffic fatalities happened on highways.What is the Difference Between Road Rage and Aggressive Driving?
The NHTSA defines aggressive driving as, “The operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property.” According to the NHTSA, aggressive driving includes, among other acts:
- Following too closely
- Driving at excessive speeds
- Rapid, frequent, and aggressive lane changes, typically referred to as weaving through traffic
- Running stop lights, and
- Running stop signs.
The NHTSA declines to define road rage, referring to the term only as “the label that emerged to describe the angry and violent behaviors at the extreme of the aggressive driving continuum.” However, the NHTSA notes that aggressive driving acts are traffic violations, but road rage is a criminal offense.Contact an Atlanta Accident Attorney Today
If you have been injured in an accident involving aggressive driving or road rage, you need to examine your options. You might be able to recover for your property damages and injuries in a personal injury action. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling (404) 255-6677. Our attorneys serve the entire state of Georgia, including Smyrna, Decatur, and Marietta. You also can reach us through our online contact form.