Jim Adler | The Tough, Smart Lawyer
By Jim Adler July 9, 2015

Road Rage accidents legal implications

Photo by vukx (iStock by Getty Images)

Many of us lose our tempers. But one of the worst places to do it is behind the wheel of a vehicle. That’s when so-called “road rage” often erupts, placing the enraged driver and those around him or her in danger of road rage accidents.

Road Rage Laws, Legal Terms

The term road rage was born in TV newscasts concerning shootings on Los Angeles freeways in the 1980s. Though now widely used in common language, it is not a legal term in Texas, which lacks laws directly naming “road rage” as an offense.

Even so, the majority of aggressive driving acts in Texas are considered moving violations, while physical attacks against others on the road are covered by laws against assault and battery, with or without a vehicle. If someone is killed, that is known as vehicular homicide.

“Reckless driving,” which can be a result of road rage, is defined by the state’s Transportation Code as “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” It is a misdemeanor punishable by as much as 30 days in jail or a $200 fine.

Texas officers may use “road rage” in a general way to describe aggressive driving such as tailgating, cutting off other vehicles, excessive honking of horns, using abusive physical gestures and other manifestations of anger at the wheel.

The Texas Department of Public Safety identifies road rage behavior as:

  • Running red lights and stop signs
  • Tailgating, speeding and weaving between lanes
  • Passing on the right side of a vehicle
  • Making inappropriate hand and facial gestures

The National Highway Traffic Safety Association defines road rage in a more extreme form as an “assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of another motor vehicle, or an assault precipitated by an incident that occurred on a roadway.”

With this definition, the NHTSA distinguishes between road rage and aggressive driving. It considers the latter a traffic offense and road rage as a criminal offense. But individual state laws still apply.

Worst Texas Cities for Road Rage

In 2009, the Driver’s Seat Road Rage Survey conducted by roadside assistance service AutoVantage found Dallas/Fort Worth as the second worst metro area for road rage after New York City. A follow-up survey in 2014 found Houston to have the least courteous drivers in America, up from eighth in the 2009 survey, while Dallas-Fort Worth dropped (or improved) to 13th.

San Antonio was not referenced in the 2009 survey, but in 2014 the Alamo City was found to be the 12th most courteous city when it comes to driving. Portland, Oregon was found to be the most courteous driving city.

These ranks were determined by an independent research company hired by AutoVantage to question rush-hour commuters in major American cities about rude driving such as tailgating, cutting in, speeding, running red lights, making obscene gestures and talking on cell phones.

Road Rage Statistics

There are many compelling road rage statistics highlighting the dangers of this aggressive driving but few are more disturbing than this: More than 1,500 persons are killed or injured by aggressive driving each year, says the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The AAA foundation also found in its annual traffic safety survey that 80% of drivers rated aggressive driving as a “serious” or “extremely serious” danger.

The Texas DPS reports that road rage incidents have increased since the 1990s. However, its statistics only concern actual collisions and do not take into account aggressive behavior that did not lead to a crash. Thus, it’s hard to quantify the actual extent of road rage incidents in Texas or elsewhere.

Road Rage Causes

Road rage causes almost always start with the individual driver, who may have a tendency to lose his or her temper. Psychologists say road rage can be considered a result of “intermittent explosive disorder,” which is another way of saying people lose their temper.

Explosive tempers can be ignited by various acts on the road, especially when drivers are perceived to be not just incompetent but also overtly rude.

Drivers may be aggravated by slow traffic when they’re in a hurry, even though traffic jams caused by such things as road construction are not other drivers’ fault. Impatience is a fuel that feeds road rage fires.

Avoid Road Rage Confrontations

Drivers can avoid road rage confrontations by first controlling their own emotions at the wheel. They also can avoid driving in ways that provoke road rage in other drivers, while being alert to and avoiding such drivers.

Drivers who want to avoid provoking road rage should:

  1. Avoid cutting off other cars when changing lanes or merging
  2. Avoid tailgating or following too closely
  3. Allow other cars to pass; move out of the far left lane if other drivers clearly want to go faster, even if you’re driving at the speed limit

The website also advises drivers to follow these road rage tips:

  1. Remember: Driving is not a race, is not a contest and is not about “winning.” Speeding and tailgating do not save you much time and are not worth the risk of an accident — which will cost you in more ways than lost time.
  2. Don’t make driving personal. You don’t know other drivers or why they drive the way they do. Don’t let slights on the road become a personal vendetta for you.
  3. Say positive things to yourself while driving and remind yourself to stay calm and keep cool. Losing control of your emotions can be dangerous.
  4. If necessary, get help from an anger management professional.

If you feel you need to report road rage to ensure public safety, you can call the emergency 911 number or you can call your local police department about aggressive or erratic drivers.

Victims’ Legal Rights

Victims of road rage collisions may be legally entitled to substantial payments to cover their medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering and mental anguish. If someone in your family was injured due to another driver’s road rage or aggravated recklessness, you have a legal right to protect your family financially in regard to injury losses.

Notify a car accident lawyer from Jim Adler & Associates with experience dealing with road rage accidents to receive a free case review.

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