The average American drives thousands of miles each year. More than 90% of working people drive to and from work, with the average commute in the United States reaching a new high of 27.1 minutes. Over a year, that means the average person spends more than 225 hours in traffic.
Cars have become safer and traffic laws are more strict, but road rage continues to be a major factor in traffic accidents. Every day the pressures of traffic jams, road construction, and stress can push drivers over the edge from irritation, impatience, and aggravation to road rage. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), fatal crashes resulting from aggressive driving increased by nearly 500% over a ten-year period. The NHTSA estimates that human error causes more than 94% of car crashes, and road rage or related behaviors are associated with about a third of these accidents.
Road rage involves more than rude gestures. It can take many forms, including physical threats, aggressive behavior, verbal insults, and attempts to get revenge on another driver. It can sometimes escalate to extreme violence and leads to about 30 murders each year. If you or someone you love was injured in a road rage accident, contact an experienced Charleston car accident attorney from the Hughey Law Firm as soon as possible.
What is the difference between road rage and aggressive driving?
No matter where you live or travel, aggressive driving is shockingly common. Almost 80% of drivers admit that they experienced significant anger, aggression, or road rage in the past year. Road rage incidents often start when other drivers make mistakes or drive poorly. They may tailgate, fail to signal, or weave across lanes.
Drivers who consider themselves assertive respond with frequent honking, yelling, or making rude gestures. These aggressive behaviors often escalate, and about 2% of drivers admit to trying to run another driver off the road. Aggressive driving and negligence lead to car crashes. Aggressive driving accompanied by a deliberate intention to hurt someone is road rage.
It can be difficult to understand the difference between aggressive driving and road rage. However, according to the NHTSA, road rage is a criminal matter, and aggressive driving is a traffic infraction. NHTSA defines road rage as a situation in which a driver “commits moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property” or “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.”
Road Rage and South Carolina Law
South Carolina does not yet have a law on the books specifically addressing road rage. In September 2019, a man who was allegedly speeding while trying to cut off another car in an act of road rage went onto the sidewalk, where he hit and severely injured a 13-year-old boy. Law enforcement officers cited him for reckless driving, a misdemeanor in South Carolina, which carries a maximum sentence of a $200 fine or 30 days imprisonment. South Carolina has a statute for reckless vehicular homicide, which is a felony, but none for reckless driving resulting in injury. A state representative from Greenville says the crash inspired him to write a bill, which is currently in process, to create a new offense to hold reckless drivers accountable.
Some circumstances frequently contribute to road rage incidents. Driving is a goal-oriented activity. Drivers want to get where they are going quickly and efficiently. When circumstances interfere with that goal, they may become angry.
Factors that contribute to road rage include:
- Traffic delays, such as traffic density or competition for parking spaces.
- Running late for a meeting or appointment.
- Anonymity. Drivers may feel that they will not see other drivers again, so they are more likely to be rude or discourteous than they would be in person.
- Disregard for other people and the law.
- Habitual or learned behavior. For some drivers, aggressive driving is their typical driving style. They tend to displace anger and blame onto others.
Common Road Rage Behaviors
Road rage happens more often than you would think. Between 2009 and 2016, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported more than 12,600 serious injuries and 218 deaths attributed to road rage. Road rage incidents can escalate quickly. Recent survey results from The Zebra indicate that a surprising number of drivers get out of their vehicle to confront another driver, get into physical altercations with other drivers, and sideswipe, ram, or force other vehicles off the road.
One AAA survey estimates that eight million drivers engage in aggressive driving behaviors. Tailgating on purpose is the most common of these behaviors. Aggressive behaviors also include yelling at other drivers, extreme or continuous horn honking, cutting off or blocking other drivers, and deliberately driving too slowly in the left lane.
According to NHTSA’s Fatal Accident Report System, other common aggressive driving behaviors include:
- Sudden acceleration;
- Following too closely;
- Changing lanes recklessly;
- Passing where prohibited;
- Failure to yield the 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 improper turns;
- 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 lights;
- Using hand gestures;
- Shouting threats or obscenities;
- Displaying a gun or other weapon; and
- Intentionally causing a crash.
Consequences of Road Rage Accidents
Road rage is dangerous and contributes to about 66% of traffic deaths. As with any motor vehicle accidents, injuries vary widely depending on the circumstances. Brain injuries, broken bones, or spinal cord injuries are often serious or catastrophic. These and other injuries can leave a victim with ongoing medical bills, lost wages, and other devastating personal consequences.
Holding the person at fault accountable for the accident can help the victim cope with the consequences. Each case is unique, but an accident victim may recover 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.
- Compensation for new limitations placed on families.
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
- Property damage.
Were You a Victim of Road Rage? What Next?
The statute of limitations determines the time limit for filing a car accident lawsuit. If you or someone you love was injured in a road rage accident, contact an experienced, compassionate attorney as soon as possible for more information or a free initial consultation.
Hughey Law Firm LLC
1311 Chuck Dawley Blvd. | Suite 201
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464