Road Rage vs. Aggressive Driving: What’s the Difference?

Every driver at some point will be the victim of aggressive driving, but at what point does aggressive driving become road rage? And is there a difference between road rage and aggressive driving?

Simply put, aggressive driving is a traffic offense often limited to the roadway, like speeding or tailgating. Road rage, on the other hand, is a willful disregard for driver safety and is often considered a criminal offense.

Let’s take a deeper look at what is considered aggressive driving and what constitutes road rage and how either can affect your Austin car accident case.

What is Aggressive Driving?

Aggressive driving is actually a pretty broad term that does not describe a single action or behavior. Instead, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as “The operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property.”

As such, aggressive driving consists of several (and sometimes a combination of) behaviors.

Aggressive driving examples include:

  • Speeding
  • Tailgating
  • Brake checking other drivers
  • Running red lights
  • Weaving in and out of traffic
  • Cutting off other drivers
  • Sudden lane changes
  • Blocking another driver’s lane change
  • Blocking another driver from passing

Most of us have at some point behaved in a way that would be defined as aggressive driving. That does not mean, however, that aggressive driving is in any way acceptable. Nor does it mean that aggressive driving is not dangerous.

What is Road Rage?

Road rage is typically an explosive fit of anger in which a driver acts in a dangerous and retaliatory manner. This may include acts of aggressive driving, but the difference is a willingness or intent to cause damage, fear, or danger.

Further, while aggressive driving is not normally focused on a particular motorist, a driver acting under road rage will often target a motorist who they perceive as a wrongdoer. This is often accompanied by yelling, cursing, and gesturing.

As road rage escalates, a driver may try to:

  • Run another motorist off the road
  • Follow another motorist
  • Initiate confrontations outside of the car
  • Drive on medians and sidewalks or enter oncoming lanes of traffic
  • Intentionally ram another motorist

Firearms are also becoming a more common factor in road rage confrontations with 1,732 people being shot in road rage incidents from 2017 to 2021.

Aggressive Driving and Road Rage are Growing Problems

Depending on your age, you may remember when reports of aggressive driving and road rage began to dominate television news. In the early 1990s, we began to see “special reports” warning of the dangers of aggressive drivers and outright acts of violence by motorists.

This news coverage occurred the United States saw a sharp increase in the number of drivers disregarding previously respected traffic laws.

In a 1997 report by the United States Department of Transportation, researchers warned of “an increase in aggressive driving.” It also noted “a sharp decline in civility and respect for other motorists and traffic laws.” That same year, a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety determined that instances of aggressive driving and road rage had increased by 51% between 1990 and 1996.

Since then, the problem has only gotten worse. More recently, Psychology Today found that the number of fatal crashes related to aggressive driving had climbed an alarming 500% from 2006 to 2015 (from 80 fatal crashes to 467 crashes.”

By 2020, about 80% of drivers polled expressed serious aggression, anger, or road rage at least once a year.

What Do Aggressive Driving and Road Rage Mean for My Austin Car Accident Case?

Typically, if your Austin car crash was the result of aggressive driving or road rage, your attorney will have more evidence to demonstrate that the other driver was liable for your crash. It may also affect the non-economic damages you are able to claim, such as emotional distress and mental anguish.

Further, depending on the circumstances of your crash, your attorney may be able to demonstrate that the driver acted with malice or gross negligence. This could open your recovery to punitive damages, which are extra non-compensatory damages meant to punish the at-fault party.

What Should I Do If I Suspect My Crash Was Caused by an Aggressive Driver?

The best thing you can do after a crash caused by aggressive driving or road rage is to report the crash to the police and call a qualified Austin injury attorney for an immediate case review.

An attorney will help ensure the evidence of your road rage crash is properly secured and preserved. They can also advise you of the best next steps you can take to protect your rights as an injured victim.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a crash with an aggressive driver, call Thomas J. Henry now for your free case evaluation. We are available 24/7, nights and weekends.

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