What Is Road Rage?

What Is Road Rage? We’ve all been in traffic behind a particularly slow driver who appears to be daydreaming at every red light, or the driver who keeps weaving in and out of the lanes without using a blinker. In those moments, we may feel frustrated or angry; some folks may lay on the horn or even flip that driver the bird as they pass by. Certainly, these are aggressive actions – but do they rise to the level of road rage?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), road rage is “an intentional assault by a driver or passenger with a motor vehicle or a weapon that occurs on the roadway or is precipitated by an incident on the roadway.” If a driver has ever struck you or your vehicle with their vehicle or another object while on the road, you might have been a victim of road rage.

Is there a difference between aggressive driving and road rage?

It is not unusual to hear the term “aggressive driving” used interchangeably with road rage incidents.  Road rage is actually a form of aggressive driving. The NHTSA explains that road rage “is the label that emerged to describe the angry and violent behaviors at the extreme of the aggressive driving continuum.”

Road rage typically describes the most extreme and violent aggressive driving behaviors. While aggressive driving is a traffic violation, road rage can be a criminal offense.

Road rage vs. aggressive driving: examples

Aggressive behaviors typically include:

  • Tailgating or following too close
  • Flashing headlights
  • Continuously beeping the horn
  • Yelling verbal insults
  • Waving arms or making rude and angry gestures

Road rage, however, may include:

  • Chasing other vehicles
  • Getting out of the vehicle to threaten a driver or person on the roadway
  • Rear-ending or bumping into another vehicle purposely
  • Blocking or preventing another vehicle from moving
  • Slamming on brakes in front of another vehicle
  • Pulling out or pointing a gun at another driver
  • Physically assaulting another individual or driver on the roadway

You should never feel threatened or unsafe when driving on the highway, interstate, or local roadways in Tennessee. If a driver makes you feel this way, call 9-1-1 right away. If you suffer an injury because of aggressive driving or road rage, consult with a Nashville car accident attorney as soon as possible.

What causes road rage in drivers?

Road rage isn’t really about the frustrations of driving; the explosive reactions of a person experiencing road rage are far beyond that of a typical driver. That level of anger? It just isn’t “normal.” We point this out because if you are a victim of road rage, we want you to know that this isn’t your fault. Just because you didn’t hit the gas pedal fast enough, perhaps, or because you took the last parking spot at the mall does not justify the violent reaction of a driver experiencing road rage.

Generally, road rage is a manifestation of other concerns, feelings, or issues. Stress and anger are the most common feelings, but it can also be triggered by a person’s competitive nature (“You won’t get to that light before me!”) or by underlying mental health concerns. The following are some triggers, however, that can set a person off:

  • Running late or feeling pressured for time: If a person is running late for work, class, or an important appointment, they are more likely to become easily angered and frustrated. Delivery drivers also feel pressured to deliver foods or products within a certain window of time. This can cause drivers to intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone on the roadway.
  • Roadwork or traffic delays: When drivers experience long periods of stopping or slow driving due to roadwork or traffic delays, they quickly become annoyed and stressed. As a result, they may drive aggressively to get around the traffic or roadwork, leading to a road rage accident.
  • Driving while drunk or intoxicated: People who abuse alcohol or drugs often have a short anger fuse. Therefore, when an intoxicated driver gets behind the wheel, they may become angry with other drivers very quickly and may not even realize that they are exhibiting aggressive or road rage behavior, which can lead to tragic accidents.
  • Not caring about or respecting others: Unfortunately, there are drivers who believe that they do not need to follow traffic laws and do not care about nor respect other drivers, which can cause a disastrous road rage accident.
  • Feeling aggravated by other road users: Some drivers become aggravated by other road users because they think pedestrians, bicycle riders, and motorcyclists get in their way and slow them down, leading to road rage.

Four tips for those who encounter a driver with road rage

If you encounter a driver with road rage, remember these four essential tips:

  1. Do not retaliate: While you may be frustrated with the angry driver, it is crucial that you refrain from retaliating even if they are yelling, making rude hand gestures, or bumping into your vehicle. Retaliating will only make the situation worse.
  2. Allow the angry driver to pass you: The best thing to do is to allow the angry driver to pass you. They are likely in a hurry, having a bad day, or out of patience, and the best way to de-escalate the situation is to let them go around you.
  3. Keep looking straight ahead: Even though it can be difficult, keep looking straight ahead when you encounter a driver with road rage because making eye contact might make things worse. Instead, try to ignore the driver, go about your business, and remove yourself from the situation.
  4. Call and report the driver: If you believe that the driver may hurt you or another person, you should call and report the incident to the police. You can call 9-1-1 or 615-862-8600 for immediate help. Provide your location, the driver’s license plate number, the direction the driver was traveling, and the color or type of vehicle. You can also file a report later.

If a driver with road rage caused you harm, Rocky McElhaney Law Firm wants to help. Our Nashville car accident lawyers have years of experience handling these types of cases, and we would be happy to help you with your case as well. Call our office or submit our contact form to schedule your free, confidential consultation with one of our attorneys today. We have offices in Nashville, East Nashville, Hendersonville, Clarksville, and Murfreesboro, and serve clients throughout Middle Tennessee.