We have all witnessed road rage at some point during our lives, and many of us have displayed road rage at some point, even if mild. Some forms of road rage fall under the umbrella of rude behavior and do not lead to dangerous accidents, injuries, or fatalities. However, road rage can and does go too far. Aggressive and careless drivers who are impatient and rude make choices behind the wheel that put others on the road at risk for accidents and injuries.
If you have sustained injuries in an accident caused by road rage, you may have legal options to seek compensation for damages from the aggressive driver. Contact an experienced auto accident attorney as soon as possible to discuss the events that led up to the accident, your injuries, and the impact they have had on your life.
Below, we provide more information about road rage, including the prevalence of road rage, driver behaviors that can constitute road rage, why drivers engage in road rage, suing for damages after a road rage accident in Florida, and steps you should take in the immediate minutes, hours, and weeks after suffering injuries in a road rage accident.
Road Rage Facts and Statistics
If you have experienced another driver’s road rage or suffered injuries from road rage, you might think it is a rare occurrence. You are not alone. Unfortunately, road rage occurs far too often, sometimes with treacherous results.
These alarming facts and statistics provide a better understanding of the problem in Florida and throughout the United States:
- Research shows that close to 80 percent of drivers in the United States struggle with anger, aggression, or road rage at least once per month.
- Road rage is a factor in more than half of all fatal traffic crashes in the United States.
- The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found more than 200 murders and 12,000 injuries occurred over seven years due to road rage.
- Drivers between the age of 25 and 39 are most likely to exhibit road rage.
- Men are more likely to exhibit road rage than women.
What Is Road Rage?
Road rage is a collection of vengeful and reckless driver behaviors that fall under the category of aggressive driving. Some organizations and agencies use the concepts of road rage and aggressive driving interchangeably. Regardless of how you look at these behaviors, they are dangerous and put others who share the road at risk for severe injuries or death. Road rage characterizes the most extreme aggressive driving behaviors.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) includes the following behaviors in its description of aggressive driving.
- Excessive speeding
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Running stop lights
- Ignoring other traffic control devices
- Failing to yield the right-of-way
- Angry gestures
- Yelling obscenities
- Face-to-face confrontation
- Physical assault
Although people and organizations often conflate the concept of road rage and aggressive driving, they are distinctive, especially under the law. The NHTSA defines aggressive driving as operating a motor vehicle in a way that endangers other people or property, and it is a traffic violation. On the other hand, road rage is a criminal offense, except for yelling and making obscene gestures.
Other examples of driver behaviors that law enforcement typically considers as aggressive driving and/or road rage include:
- Throwing objects
- Ramming another vehicle
- Sideswiping a vehicle
- Running a vehicle off the road
- Making threats with or using a gun or other weapon
- Excessive honking at another vehicle
- Flashing headlights
- Slamming on brakes for no reason
Factors that Contribute to Road Rage
The NHTSA has spent ample time and resources studying the causes of road rage and aggressive driving. They have not identified one definitive reason why people engage in aggressive driving behavior, but they have learned about various factors that contribute to road rage. These factors are not mutually exclusive. According to the NHTSA, more than one factor can contribute to a single episode of road rage. Another important consideration is that some dangerous driving behaviors are not always aggressive driving or road rage. For example, many drivers speed excessively, but not all excessive speeding is road rage.
Below is a broad overview of the most common road rage factors according to the NHTSA:
Traffic delays are one of the most common contributing factors to road rages. Delays stem from roadwork, traffic accidents, heavy traffic, and test the patience of all drivers. Those who have a low tolerance for delays sometimes tailgate other vehicles, frequently change lanes, and get angry at other vehicles who get in their way.
Drivers have multiple obligations, whether they are single, married, or married with children. They might have to be to work, school, a meeting, a sports event, or another appointment. Those who run late sometimes drive aggressively and may display road rage. NHTSA research shows that the stress of endless obligations weighs differently on some individuals and contributes to a pattern of aggressive driving.
Feeling of Anonymity
Although drivers share the road with many other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians, they are still isolated from the rest of the world while inside their vehicles, creating a distinctive blend of private and public behavior. The isolation that occurs within a vehicle creates feelings of detachment and anonymity that can promote antisocial behavior. More simply, some drivers feel free to display road rage because others cannot see them, or they know they will not see those who witness their behavior.
Disregard for the Law and Others
In the same way that social norms influence driving behavior, so do cultural norms. People change their behaviors based on what is appropriate at the time, which is heavily influenced by the media, movies, and television. Some suspect that car chase scenes in movies influence motorists by creating models of aggressive driving behavior. Other scientists think that disregard for the law and others stems from the erosion of values and respect for authority, which they claim is a result of cultural changes such as the breakdown of the extended family. This disregard for law and safety leads some to engage in aggressive driving behavior.
The NHTSA notes that the majority of drivers do not engage in aggressive driving regularly, and some never do. However, aggressive driving is a habit for a small portion of motorists. They drive aggressively each time they are behind the wheel. It can be related or triggered by one of the other factors, but some learn that driving aggressively is appropriate. Other drivers engage in road rage as an “expression of illness.”
Seeking Damages After a Florida Road Rage Accident
If you are involved in a road rage accident in Florida, you have the right to seek compensation for damages from the driver who caused the accident and your injuries. Florida is one of several states with a no-fault insurance system. The state requires drivers who register a vehicle to carry minimum amounts of personal injury protection (PIP) coverage and property damage liability coverage (PDL) to provide benefits in case of an accident.
After suffering injuries in a road rage accident, you must contact your insurance company to file a claim under your PIP coverage, even though an aggressive driver caused your injuries. Your Florida PIP policy would pay a portion of your medical expenses and lost wages, up to your policy limit. Minimum coverage is $10,000, so you may quickly meet or exceed your policy limits if you suffered severe injuries. PIP coverage also extends to you if you suffered injuries from an aggressive driving accident as a pedestrian or while riding your bicycle. Once you have exhausted your PIP insurance options, you could file a claim with the driver’s insurance company and an accident injury lawsuit if necessary.
If you settle with the insurance company or the court rules in your favor, you could receive compensation for:
- Medical treatment costs beyond what your PIP insurance benefits covered, including expenses for ambulance and emergency service, surgery, hospital stay, lab tests, x-rays, follow-up doctor visits, medication, and travel to and from the hospital.
- Estimated future medical treatment costs when road rage leads to permanent injuries that require continued care or additional surgeries.
- Rehabilitation costs for physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, counseling, and other specialized treatment that help accident victims cope with the physical and mental impact of their injuries.
- Lost wages not already paid through PIP benefits.
- Estimated future lost wages, referred to as lost earning capacity, when road rage accident injuries prevent someone from returning to their job or working in the future.
- Pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of consortium with a spouse.
- Scarring and disfigurement.
- Diminished quality of life.
- Punitive damages if a court agrees that the specific road rage behaviors constitute intentional harm or gross negligence.
When you meet with an attorney to discuss the details of your accident, he or she will review the facts of your accident and determine which damages can apply.
Criminal Prosecution vs. a Civil Lawsuit After a Road Rage Accident
Florida law does not directly deal with road rage. However, one statute does protect other motorists from habitual aggressive drivers. The law requires law enforcement to screen accident reports and identify if the driver responsible has caused other crashes in previous years. If this is the case, they can require the driver to take driver improvement classes on top of other fines and penalties. Any traffic citations or criminal charges that arise from a road rage accident do not impact your civil lawsuit against the aggressive driver.
If the driver faces criminal prosecution, a jury will decide if he or she was guilty of the charges made against them. Like other criminal trials, the jury must find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Although your attorney might want to wait to see how a criminal trial plays out, the outcome of the trial is independent of your lawsuit.
In a civil lawsuit, the jury has a lower standard of proof. The jury makes a decision based on the preponderance of the evidence. Instead of finding the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the court must decide that there is more than a 50 percent chance that the claim is true. Sometimes, insurance companies might be involved in a civil trial involving road rage. However, you may file your suit directly against the aggressive driver. The Insurance Information Institute warns that many auto insurance policies do not cover road rage.
Steps After a Road Rage Accident
When road rage goes too far and leads to an accident, you might find yourself angry, overwhelmed, and fearful, making it difficult to know the right steps to take in the wake of an accident.
However, these steps can help you protect the value of your claim; try to follow as many as you can, depending on how long ago you were involved in a road rage accident.
- Stay in your vehicle. If you are reading this while sitting in your vehicle after an aggressive driver caused an accident, do not leave your vehicle unless you are in immediate danger of an explosion or oncoming traffic. It is best to avoid an aggressive driver because you do not know their frame of mind.
- Call 911. Contact emergency services as soon as possible, even if you suspect someone else called 911. It is important to have law enforcement come to the scene as soon as possible. The local police or Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) can deal with an aggressive driver, especially if they are angry and confrontational.
- Record information. Sometimes after a road rage incident, a driver will leave the scene of the accident if their vehicle is still drivable. Try to record the make, model, and license plate of the vehicle, so you do not get stuck absorbing the costs associated with the accident.
- Contact a lawyer. Road rage accidents are complex cases, and an experienced auto accident lawyer can guide you through the claims process and help you fight for the compensation you deserve.