Data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that, on average, Americans drive over 11,000 miles each year. The time we spend driving on congested roads, or through interminable construction zones, often leads to frustration, impatience, anger, and even road rage. According to the American Safety Council, over a seven year period, researchers attributed over 12,000injuries and 218 murders on U.S. roads to road rage.
A recent study from the Auto Insurance Center examined Instagram posts tagged with #RoadRage to understand these incidents better. It found that New York was at the top of U.S. cities in 2015, 2016, and 2017 in the number of #RoadRage posts per capita. Not only that, the tag was so prevalent that when researchers classified Brooklyn as its own city, for rankings purposes, it still took the second spot on the list!
What Is the Difference Between Road Rage and Aggressive Driving?
Driver aggression is surprisingly common. Almost 80 percent of drivers acknowledged feeling significant anger, aggression, or rage behind the wheel in the past year. Those feelings often prompt a driver to engage in aggressive driving behaviors, such as speeding, tailgating, weaving in-and-out of traffic, and overusing a vehicle’s horn.
There is a difference, however, between these expressions of frustration behind the wheel, and what is known as road rage. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines road rage as when a driver “commits moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property; an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle on the operator or passenger of another motor vehicle.”
In other words, road rage differs from mere aggressive driving in that road rage stems from an intent to harm another person through one’s driving behaviors. Speeding when you’re angry is aggressive, but it’s only road rage if you speed in hopes of harming another driving by your speeding.
Both aggressive driving and its escalated form, road rage, often arise from a traffic situation in which one driver reacts to another driver’s mistakes or bad driving habits. To punish the other driver, the aggrieved driver may retaliate with even more aggressive behaviors. If those behaviors aim to harm the first driver, they constitute road rage.
Common Aggressive Driving Behaviors That Can Constitute Road Rage
Data from NHTSA’s Fatal Accident Report System (FARS) identified behaviors commonly associated with aggressive driving. If intended to harm another person, these actions can constitute an act of illegal road rage. They include:
- Sudden acceleration
- Following too closely
- Changing lanes recklessly
- Passing where prohibited
- Failure to yield right of way
- Disobeying traffic signs or signals
- Disobeying safety zone laws
- Failure to observe warnings or instructions on a vehicle displaying them
- Failure to signal
- Driving too fast for conditions or more than the posted speed limit
- Racing another vehicle
- Making an improper turn
- Sudden braking
- Driving where it is not permitted, such as on the shoulder of the road, on a sidewalk, in a ditch or on a median
- Excessive use of horns
- Flashing of lights
- Use of hand gestures
- Shouting threats or obscenities
- Displaying a gun or other weapon
- Intentionally causing a crash
New York Road Rage Laws
Engaging in aggressive driving behaviors to harm another person is a crime in New York. But the criminal justice system only punishes wrongdoers. It usually does not compensate those harmed in a road rage accident. For those victims to recover damages, they often must take civil action in New York courts against the road-raging driver or others who may have contributed to that driver’s behavior.
Consequences of Road Rage Accidents
Road rage is dangerous and plays a part in approximately 66 percent of traffic deaths, according to the American Safety Council. Victims of road rage accidents often suffer serious or even fatal injuries. These may include brain injuries, broken bones, or spinal cord injuries. Such injuries usually require lengthy recovery times, ongoing medical care, and may permanently affect the victim’s life. The victim is left with significant medical bills, lost income, and long-term consequences.
Holding the person at fault accountable for the accident can help the victim cope with the harm done by a road rage accident. Each case is unique, but victims of a road rage incident may have the right to recover significant damages, including:
- Medical bills, including the cost of rehabilitation and other future medical expenses.
- Lost wages caused by being forced to miss work and loss of future earning capacity.
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish or emotional distress
- Loss of consortium for new limitations placed on families
- The loss of your ability to enjoy your life
- Property damage
Tips for Avoiding Road Rage
More than 90 percent of working people drive to and from work. Commute times have increased over the years, and as of 2017, the average American’s commute is 26.9 minutes. Drivers are often tired, irritable, or dealing with personal or professional stress when they get behind the wheel. Studies show that road rage was most frequent in August, perhaps because so many people are traveling. Friday was the most common day for road rage, followed closely by Thursday.
How can you avoid causing or experiencing road rage?
- Be a considerate driver. Use your turn signals and always check your blind spots when changing lanes.
- Know that everyone makes mistakes. If another driver makes an error or is inconsiderate, avoid eye contact and do not make obscene gestures, honk or drive aggressively.
- Put things in perspective. If you are stuck in traffic, calm down, and accept that you may be late.
- Remember that road rage can cause serious and permanent harm to ourselves and others on the road.
Were You a Victim of Road Rage? Call a Car Accident Lawyer for More Information
New York’s statute of limitations sets the time limit for filing a personal injury lawsuit for damages arising out of a road rage incident. If you have been injured in an accident involving road rage, speak with an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your rights to compensation.