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When someone swerves too close or pulls out in front of your vehicle, you might exclaim, make a gesture at the other driver or start to tailgate. Whether you’re the victim or aggressor, did you know these actions are considered a crime? A sudden burst of anger could actually result in a fine or jail time.

While some people use the terms interchangeably, road rage and aggressive driving are not the same. What should you know?

Road Rage vs. Aggressive Driving

silver car speeding around a cornerAccording to the AAA Foundation, 218 murders and more than 12,000 injuries have been attributed to road rage over the past seven years. As the figures show, these behaviors can endanger public safety and are considered a criminal offense.

On the other hand, aggressive driving is a traffic offense. What’s the difference? According to the NHTSA, aggressive driving strictly applies to traffic instances that damage or endanger other people or property on the road, while road rage takes it a step further. Specifically, it becomes road rage when a vehicle is used to commit assault. Beyond tailgating and cutting drivers off, road rage encompasses obscene gestures, attempting to run someone over and pulling out a weapon.

Once aggressive driving leads to altercations, street fights or escalates to a shootout, it’s road rage.

Why Is Road Rage Dangerous?

The behaviors may speak for themselves, but road rage makes you a hazard for a number of reasons:

  • Road rage frequently happens when a driver is already traveling at a high speed. As such, he or she has less control of the vehicle.
  • Before the obscene gestures, he or she is already engaging in unsafe driving; for instance, not staying in the correct lane or following too closely.
  • For these reasons, road rage leads to a high percentage of accidents. Based on figures from NHTSA, driving errors are behind 94 percent of all accidents, with 33 percent stemming from road rage. Based on research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, road rage and aggressive driving may be the source of 56 percent of all car accidents.
  • Based on data from SafeMotorist.com, close to 40 percent of all road rage fatalities don’t involve a car. Rather, two drivers get into an argument and one pulls out a firearm.
  • Road rage is not an isolated incident. Based on a survey from TitleMax.com, the typical aggressive driver uses these behaviors an average of two times per day. He or she is generally more of a risk taker, experiences a high degree of anxiety and anger, has more accidents and a higher rate of drug and alcohol use.
  • One-third of drivers have engaged in road rage behaviors at some point. Supporting these statements, fatal accidents linked to road rage rose from 26 in 2004 to 247 in 2013.
  • Road rage creates a chain reaction. Specifically, when an aggressive driver targets another motorist, the victim retaliates with more aggressive behavior. This scenario sets an example for others on the road, resulting in other drivers engaging in aggressive, dangerous, combative actions.

What Causes Road Rage?

It’s a frightening experience to be pursued by an aggressive driver and your actions are rarely to blame. The aggressor may be:

  • Dealing with a personal issue, whether that’s a hard day on the job or a spousal argument.
  • Channeling frustrations out on the road – for instance, getting stuck behind a slow-moving group of cars or getting cut off.
  • Running late or could have experienced a traffic delay.
  • Enjoying the anonymity of driving and how easy it seems to disobey the law.
  • Taking traffic issues personally – for instance, another driver intentionally cut them off – or sees themselves as better than other motorists on the road.

As a behavior, road rage is more likely to occur on a main road through your town, followed by divided highways, backroads and parking lots.

Being the Victim of an Aggressive Driver

What can you do if an aggressive driver is coming after you?

  1. Be understanding – to a fault.
  2. Slow down and let the aggressive driver pass you.
  3. Stay calm and take deep breaths, so you remain relaxed through the whole ordeal.
  4. If you can’t let the driver pass, give them some space.
  5. Avoid engaging in aggressive behaviors and looking at the other driver.
  6. Never confront the aggressive driver. Always stay in your vehicle and lock your doors.
  7. If the other driver is endangering your life, call 911 immediately.

If You’re Prone to Road Rage

To avoid behaving aggressively on the road and posing a risk to other drivers, keep the following in mind:

  1. Know your triggers and pull over or take a break whenever you start to get riled up.
  2. If you can’t pull over, try to calm down with music, taking deep breaths or another calming technique.
  3. Be understanding of other drivers because mistakes happen. He or she likely didn’t mean to cut you off.

Were you the victim of an aggressive driver or road rage incident? If you’re recovering from injuries and the insurance company is trying to lay part of the blame on you, Trantolo & Trantolo is on your side. For fair compensation, bring your claim to one of our car accident attorneys today.