The term "road rage" was coined after a series of similar accidents in Los Angeles in 1987 and 1988. California is no stranger to incidents on its highways because someone got frustrated and angry about traffic congestion. The American Safety Council estimates that two-thirds of all traffic fatalities are caused by road rage. It is highly likely that you could be involved in a road rage incident.
There is a fine line between road rage and aggressive driving. Driving aggressively is a traffic offense, defined by taking a "serious risk" that endangers or jeopardizes the driver's safety. Road rage is when the driver commits "moving traffic offenses to endanger other persons or property." Road rage can be a criminal charge, much like assault.
Aggressive driving behaviors include:
- Driving slow in the passing lane
- Inconsiderate driving
- Negligent driving
- Failing to signal a lane change
Aggressive driving has a cascading effect. When one driver takes risks, other drivers have to take evasive actions that can create even more hazards. Many rush-hour crashes due to aggressive driving often contribute to secondary crashes.
Road rage occurs when aggressive driving turns into a more serious situation. For example, a driver cuts another car off. The driver who got cut off decides to speed up and attempt to run the first car off the road. Generally, road rage is an intentional act.
What to do if you are in a road rage accident
Any accident on the road is stressful, but a road rage incident has increased tension. One of the worst things you can do is try to confront the other driver. It is better not to react or retaliate, even if you did nothing to cause the other driver to get angry. The other driver does not know how to manage stress. Continue to drive safely and allow the other vehicle to pass, if you can. If not, try to stay calm and get as much information about the other vehicle as possible. Then call 911 and let the authorities sort the situation out.
Getting to your destination safely is more important than teaching another driver a lesson or getting injured on the road. Before giving into driving rage, consider that more than 37 percent of aggressive driving incidents involve a firearm. If you are injured in an accident, it is a good idea to talk to an attorney about your rights. Vehicle accidents are worrying enough without having to negotiate with an angry driver or insurance company.