Road Rage and
Aggressive Driving

Many of us have felt our ire rise when provoked by another driver. Provocation, whether real or perceived, is a leading cause of road rage in the United States, according to a 2020 survey by The Zebra, which bills itself as the “leading insurance comparison site” and is often cited for its research.

In the same survey, almost two-thirds of respondents reported witnessing incidents of road rage, and an astonishing 82% admitted to personally driving aggressively or experiencing enough road rage to make them do stupid things.

What should you do if you witness a road rage incident, or are involved in one yourself, or worse, you engage in road rage? What if this incident results in an accident? 

If you’re in Worcester, Shrewsbury, Southborough, or Webster, Massachusetts, contact me at the Law Office of James A. Maniatis. I have been practicing law for 30 years and believe in obtaining “maximum recovery” for you, meaning I will pursue the biggest possible settlement.

Understanding Road
Rage and What to Do

In a recent seven-year stretch, there were 12,610 reported instances nationwide of road rage, resulting in 218 fatalities. Most people don’t realize it, but road rage is considered a criminal offense while driving aggressively is merely a traffic safety violation.

Road Rage

What’s the difference, then, between aggressive driving and road rage? The primary difference is anger and violence. The most common forms of road rage are honking your horn, flashing your lights, using provocative gestures, cursing, and tailgating. Even worse forms include throwing objects, trying to block a driver’s lane or force them off the road, bumping into the other vehicle, getting out of your car to yell obscenities, or even in rare cases, engaging in physical altercations.

According to respondents in The Zebra survey, the top three road-rage-inducing incidents are being tailgated, being threatened by distracted drivers, and getting cut off.

What should you do if you witness an incident of road rage, especially a violent one that threatens harm to others? The obvious first answer is to get out of harm’s way by slowing down, changing lanes, passing the engaged vehicles by, or taking the nearest exit. The other — probably safest for all — action is to call 911 and report what’s going on (if you don’t have hands-free cell operations, pull your vehicle over), but only 10% of Zebra respondents reported ever having done this.

If you feel road rage coming over you, what should you personally do? Take a deep breath and try to put things in perspective so as not to let your emotions escalate; try counting to 10 – this is what most safe driving websites recommend. According to The Zebra survey, respondents recommended listening to music to calm you down, turning your thoughts to other subjects, or even yelling at yourself to blow off steam (though the latter could easily be mistaken for road rage).

Aggressive Driving

There may be a fine line between aggressive driving and road rage, but aggression on the road remains just a traffic offense, whereas road rage can result in a criminal charge.

The two actually share some of the same characteristics, but aggressive driving does not include a component of violence or revenge. It’s just one driver lacking courtesy who may think he owns the road or at least figures he won’t see any of the other drivers again, so it’s “safe” to drive as he pleases. To this driver, it’s therefore acceptable to make abrupt lane changes, drive 10 or 20 miles over the speed limit, or drive too closely behind another vehicle (tailgating) to get the driver to move out of the way.

It’s often convenient to justify aggressive habits like these. Maybe the traffic is heavy and you’re going to be late getting to where you need to be. Or worse, you’re the habitual “late riser” who thinks nothing of breaking traffic laws to get to work on time. The problem is, aggressive driving can become ingrained all too easily. Then you have the proverbial driver who thinks he owns the road. We’ve all seen them, probably every time we venture out on busy thoroughfares.

If you witness aggressive driving, the best bet is just to avoid that vehicle — change lanes or take an exit and then get back on. If the aggressive driver looks as if he may cause an accident or injury, calling 911 is often an exercise in civic duty. To better protect yourself, you can also take a defensive driving course.

If you yourself have fallen into aggressive driving habits, you may need to reflect on why aggression and discourtesy for others have overtaken you. What are the causes? If you just leave earlier for your destination, will that calm you down? Many cell phone apps can now forewarn you of traffic snarls and suggest faster routes. If all else fails, maybe a string of expensive traffic violations may sober you up.

Both Road Rage and
Aggressive Driving Can Kill

Remember, two-thirds of traffic fatalities are the result of aggressive driving. The National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHTA) estimates that 92% of all accidents result from human error, of which aggressive driving is a large component.

In addition, 37% of aggressive drivers carry firearms in their vehicles. The result is that road rage incidents produce some 30 fatalities a year — with one driver shooting another. Shocking, isn’t it?

How an Attorney Can Help

If you have been the victim of road rage or an aggressive driving accident, especially if you’ve been injured, you’re going to need the services of a good car accident and personal injury attorney. While you’re recovering from both the incident and any resulting injuries, the last thing you need is to have to haggle with an insurance adjuster who is paid to wrap up matters with the lowest possible settlement amount and the most restrictive terms.

It’s difficult for the average driver to understand the nuances and trickery of insurance settlements, which can lead to you being shortchanged. Let me go to bat for you. I will investigate your case, negotiate with the insurers, and pursue other legal remedies to obtain the compensation you deserve.

If you live in or near Worcester, Shrewsbury, Northborough, Westborough, Grafton, Webster, Dudley, Oxford, or South Bridge, please call me at the Law Office of James A. Maniatis to start the process of obtaining your “maximum recovery.”


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