Road rage puts motorists at high risk of serious injury and death. And studies show people are aware that aggressive driving behavior is a major problem that contributes to traffic fatalities – yet 75 percent of U.S. motorists admit to driving aggressively. A higher percentage than that admitted in a survey to experiencing anger, aggression or road rage at some point behind the wheel in the 30 days prior.
It’s most commonly punctuated with tailgating, honking or yelling, though it’s defined as any extreme anger or aggression intending to create or cause physical harm. It might also involve:
- Speeding in heavy traffic.
- Red light running.
- Cutting off another driver.
- Weaving in and out of traffic/frequent lane changes.
- Rude or inflammatory gestures.
- Hitting, bumping, sideswiping or ramming another vehicle.
- Use of brakes or headlights to intimidate or harass another driver.
- Forcing another vehicle off the road.
The No. 1 reason for road rage? Running late. We can often trace this to societal pressure. So many people are dealing with demands from all directions, and punctuality is expected – all while roadways become increasingly more crowded. The average driver travels 29 miles daily and spends more than an hour behind the wheel. Trigger points can include impatience while waiting to park or at traffic lights, impatience waiting for passengers to board and frustration when highway traffic narrows.
Of course, some incidents are sparked by seemingly benign occurrences. In one recent road rage case in Miami, a motorist was enraged after a banana peel hit his truck after being tossed from another moving vehicle. According to local news reports, the other driver pulled a gun and fired into the front passenger window, causing it to shatter and injuring the other driver. The accused gunman was arrested.
Some states are much worse for road rage and aggressive driving than others. Florida, for example, was No. 1 in the country for road rage incidents involving a firearm (147 between 2014 and 2016, according to thetrace.org). Miami and Tampa are among the worst metro areas in the country for such incidents.
Although aggressive driving is difficult to quantify, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports a 500 percent uptick in deaths resulting from crashes linked to aggressive driving between 2006 and 2015. An analysis by AAA indicated there was a 51 percent increase in major road rage incidents from 1990 to 1996 and a 7 percent uptick every year since then. There is a strong perception among 2/3 of drivers that road rage has worsened in recent years.
Although road rage and aggressive driving can occur at any time, most reportedly occur at 10 p.m., with incidents higher on Sundays and Mondays and during the summer months.
Some actions associated with road rage are criminalized, though it may in some cases be merely a traffic violation. In civil litigation, which would be pursued if someone was injured, what we’d need to establish is negligence. This is an area of tort law that occurs when there is a failure to exercise appropriate care when someone has a duty to do so and it results in harm to another. So while one might not be liable for “road rage,” they could certainly be held liable for a rear-end collision caused by tailgating.
Liability might be more difficult to prove if you were cut off and struck the other vehicle from behind as a result or if the driver forced you off the road but never actually struck you. It would be important to look at the totality of the evidence. In some cases, insurers may attempt to deny claims stemming from road rage because most auto insurance policies have exclusions for injuries caused by intentional harm. This is why it’s critical to contact a West Palm Beach car accident attorney if you’re injured in a road rage incident.
Man Arrested for Florida Road Rage Shooting After Banana Tossed at His Truck: Deputies, May 20, 2021, NBC6 Miami
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Florida’s No-Fault Car Insurance Law May Be Steering Toward an Exit, May 27, 2021, West Palm Beach Car Accident Lawyer Blog