Can You Go to Jail for Road Rage?

by Margaret Wood Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021

The short answer is: it depends.

While you may not go to jail (unless additional charges, such as assault, are added), road rage is still considered a criminal offense. There are many rude drivers and clueless people on the road. Combined with lack of sleep, stressful lifestyles, a long quarantine period, being late for work or an appointment, and other factors, it should come as no surprise that some drivers lose their temper. These situations can be dangerous, can escalate, and can result in criminal charges.

Regardless of the reasons, aggressive driving can be dangerous and often result in traffic offense charges; road rage is considered criminal. Some people believe that the over-aggressive behavior displayed in road rage is intended to “teach other drivers a lesson”; under these circumstances, it would appear that a driver engaging in this sort of behavior has the intent to cause harm.

What is road rage?

Road rage is aggressive or violent behavior by one motorist to another.

According to WebMD, “…road rage has happened to more than half of all drivers.” Drivers can become angry without much provocation. Safe drivers can lose their patience just as quickly if someone puts them in danger or is rude, whether intentionally or unintentionally. When the adrenaline starts pumping, lying hard on the horn, shooting the bird, or screaming out of the window are all normal reactions. However, some road rage situations become very confrontational, escalating well beyond this point and involve violence–these situations have evolved into criminal acts.

Thousands of people across the country are endangered by road rage annually. More people are driving now than ever before–crowding can lead to aggression. People may drive aggressively at some point, i.e., speeding, following too closely, weaving from lane to lane, cutting others off, running red lights, and ignoring traffic signs. The list goes on. However, drivers should understand that there is a legal difference between road rage and aggressive driving. 

Their aggressive action may not be intentional—they’re just trying to get to their destination faster and mean no harm. 

Others may have anger management issues. Regardless of the reasons, aggressive driving and road rage are dangerous; they often result in traffic offense charges. 

Can you sue for road rage?

If you encounter road rage during work-related activities, you can file for worker’s comp.  Road rage is an offense, so if you are injured due to a road rage perpetrated by another party, you can claim compensation under the Victims of Crime Act of 1984. Threatening or abusing someone verbally may also be classified as verbal assault.

How should you react to road rage?

There were several steps to keep in mind that can help you handle irate drivers and diffuse road rage:

  1.  Don’t initiate a car chase
  2.  Remain calm
  3.  Drive to a public place with a lot of people 
  4.  Ignore the angry driver
  5. Call 911 or ask a passenger to call (if you have one)
  6. Don’t get out of your car
  7. If you are being followed, do not drive home – instead, drive to the police station 

 It may not take much for a driver to go from calm to aggressive to over the top, causing them to act irrationally. We can’t predict when we might come in contact with an incompetent/aggressive driver –it’s not something you can prevent. 

However, here are several tips for minimizing the risk of becoming a road rage target. These include: 

  • Avoid driving when tired
  • Do not tailgate
  • Follow the rules of the road
  • Stay off your phone 

Safe travels everyone!

(C) Margaret Wood 2021


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