The media coverage over the last few years has highlighted the rise in rude, obnoxious and even hostile drivers on the roadways. Horns blowing, offensive gestures, cursing have all become an expected part of the daily commute for some people. While the media has labeled this offensive behavior “road rage,” it should not be confused with the concept of “aggressive driving.” Aggressive driving and road rage are often used interchangeably, however, they are two very different types of behavior.
What is aggressive driving?
The term “aggressive driving” is actually a legal concept that describes a category of traffic offenses. These offenses can include following too closely, speeding, unsafe lane changes, failing to signal intent to change lanes, and other forms of negligent or inconsiderate driving. Typically, aggressive driving is seen in the midst of traffic congestion, as certain drivers are probably already running late and they are determined to get where they are going as quickly as possible, regardless of the rules of the road. In an effort to make up the time, drivers often commit many of the above violations, which put themselves and others on the road at risk.
Recognizing road rage
Road rage, as the behavior has been dubbed, usually occurs when traffic incidents escalate into something more hostile and possibly even violent. Road rage is a criminal offense in most states. While road rage is often triggered by an aggressive driving situation, it goes well beyond a simple traffic transgression. When drivers become so angry over another driver’s actions, they sometimes overreact and try to retaliate with some form of violence. This could be a verbal or physical confrontation or an actual assault, possibly with a weapon.
Why road rage can be so dangerous
The scary part of road rage is that, often, the victims never see it coming. Many incidents of road rage are triggered by another driver’s intentional conduct, such as switching from lane to lane in an effort to go around other vehicles and cutting someone off. But in many cases, the traffic offense that triggered retaliation may have been committed unintentionally, such as when you make an abrupt exit from a roadway without proper signaling, when you suddenly realized you were at your exit.
What can we do?
Both aggressive driving and road rage are serious public concerns. Some reports have indicated that drivers are actually more afraid of an aggressive driver than an impaired driver. We all have a role to play in helping to curb this dangerous behavior. Media outlets need to make an effort not to sensationalize this behavior. They also need a clearer understanding of the difference between aggressive driving and road rage. This is where law enforcement comes in. As the public is educated, and begins to understand what these terms mean, more reports of aggressive driving will be made. The point is, choosing to report aggressive drivers, instead of overreacting and allowing anger to stand in the way of common sense and judgment, can go a long way to reducing the frequency of these incidents.
If you have questions regarding aggressive driving, or any other personal injury concerns, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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