It’s happened to everyone — the angry driver one lane over rolls down his window to scream at you for allegedly cutting him off. Someone lays on their horn too long. You get tailed for blocks.
Although these are unfortunate experiences, they’re just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to an increasing number of dangerous incidents and car accidents in Ohio involving road rage. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that a whopping 80% of drivers in the U.S. admitted to at least one road rage incident in the past year, including significant anger or aggression behind the wheel. Eight million U.S. drivers reported extreme road rage — including purposefully ramming another vehicle or getting out of their car to confront another driver. Meanwhile, a report using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatal Accident Reporting System found that between 2003 and 2007, aggressive driving was involved in 56% of fatal accidents. Excessive speed was the No. 1 factor.
If you’ve recently been hurt in an accident because of another person’s road rage, speaking with the experienced Ohio personal injury attorneys of Plevin & Gallucci to initiate a legal claim may be critical for allowing you to focus on recovery and hold the responsible driver accountable.
What does road rage look like?
The NHTSA defines road rage as when “an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.”
While speeding is often the leading driver behavior associated with fatal crashes, there are several other ways drivers can be aggressive behind the wheel. The NHTSA data showed the following were contributing factors in crashes that may have involved aggressive driving:
- Following improperly, or improper or erratic lane changing;
- Driving in an erratic, reckless, careless, or negligent manner or suddenly changing speeds;
- Illegally driving on the shoulder, in a ditch, or on the sidewalk or median, and otherwise passing where prohibited;
- Failure to yield right of way or signal;
- Making an improper turn;
- Failure to obey traffic signs, traffic control devices, or police officers;
- Not observing safety zone traffic laws, or warnings/instructions on a vehicle displaying them;
Additionally, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimated the following percentage of drivers in the U.S. engaged in these behaviors in the past year:
- 51% of drivers — or about 104 million drivers — purposely tailgated another driver;
- 47% of drivers yelled at another driver;
- 45% honked to show annoyance or anger;
- 33% made angry gestures;
- 24% tried to block another vehicle from changing lanes;
- 12% cut off another vehicle on purpose.
Men and younger drivers were more likely to engage in aggressive behavior, including getting out of their car to yell at another driver or ramming a car on purpose. Drivers who normally speed also are about four times more likely to have cut off another vehicle on purpose.
Ohio Home to More Road Rage Issues
Road rage is appearing in more Ohio vehicle incidents, too. An On Your Side investigation, in which they interviewed a Cuyahoga County man awaiting a pre-trial hearing for a road rage incident where he had allegedly pulled out a gun and threatened to shoot an elderly couple, explored road rage reports for 16 counties in the northeast part of the state. Only four counties had no growth or declines. The others, however, had significant increases in road rage problems: Lorain County saw an 88% jump and Geauga County saw a 67% spike in road rage incidents, for instance.
As noted by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, there is no one law associated with road rage. Actions classified as road rage, however, may lead to specific offenses, such as reckless operation, assault, and impeding.
The fact that road rage can lead to criminal charges as well as civil consequences in the form of a personal injury lawsuit makes it well worth avoiding any action that might be considered too aggressive on the road.
Preventing Road Rage Incidents
One of the key things to keep in mind if another driver seems out of control is that your only possible response is generally to keep the situation from escalating any further. There are a few things you can do to avoid a serious incident when someone else is showing signs of road rage, including:
- Avoiding eye contact with someone who appears very angry;
- Moving over if a person is tailgating you;
- Pulling off the road and letting someone pass if they seem to be following you;
- Using your horn sparingly.
Never retaliate against someone who is showing signs of aggressive driving. You cannot predict how another person will react and it’s far better to remove yourself from the situation than to find yourself the victim of a violent road-rage incident.
Staying calm yourself is critical for keeping tempers from flaring. While someone else’s behavior might be an annoyance to you, it’s not worth risking an interaction only to discover that the other driver is very aggressive or worse, carrying a weapon. The Trace, a nonprofit covering gun issues, found more than 600 gun-related road rage situations in 2016 alone. That’s more than double the number from just two years before.
What to Do If a Driver with Road Rage Causes an Accident
As the data above shows, road rage today is about more than an angry driver sharing an obscene gesture or honking the horn — the situations can involve violence, accidents, and even death. No one should ever have to suffer injuries because of another person’s aggressive driving behavior. If you’ve been injured due to an Ohio driver’s recklessness or aggressive behavior, you have rights.