ROAD RAGE: “Just Ride Away”
By Susan Handel, Esq.
Road rage is a major concern of the American public and a real threat to the safety of all road users. Any unsafe driving behavior performed deliberately and with ill intention or disregard for the safety of others can constitute road rage. This includes, but is not limited to, cutting people off, impacting a vehicle with another, running someone off the road, shooting or physically assaulting other drivers and/or passengers. At the very least, road rage is unpleasant. At its worst, road rage is deadly.
Road rage is different for motorcyclists. If you are the instigator, you will be in plain view because you are not in a vehicle, which shields your identity. If you are the victim, you don’t
have the air bags, the seatbelt or the outer shell of a vehicle to protect you from sustaining serious injuries in an accident.
One of my recent cases is a good example of a motorcyclist who was both a victim and a responder to road rage.
John was exiting a gas station with nine other motorcyclists. The group was trying to stay together and travel onto a nearby freeway. Suddenly, and without provocation, a vehicle intentionally tried to separate the group of motorcyclists by driving towards the motorcyclists in a reckless manner. John traveled towards the vehicle on his motorcycle and “tapped” the vehicle driver’s side mirror with the intention of sending a message to the aggressive driver to “lay off.” The driver of the vehicle then became enraged and chased John down with his vehicle, which struck John. John sustained serious injuries as a result of this accident. The driver sustained no injuries. Luckily, one of the motorcyclists had a camera on his helmet, which took video of the entire accident, including the aggressive driver chasing the motorcyclist down and striking him.
One of the first things I did when I got this case was to turn the video over to the police and request that the aggressive driver be arrested and charged with attempted murder of the motorcyclists. Here, the aggressive driver used his vehicle as a deadly weapon and tried to cause great bodily harm or death to a group of motorcyclists without justification. The driver of the vehicle claimed that “he was in fear for his life” because he believed the motorcyclists were trying to harm or kill him. The driver of the vehicle was completely dishonest about the circumstances of this accident to both the police and his insurance company. Initially, the insurance company for the driver disputed liability and would not accept responsibility for this accident. The insurance company changed their position and accepted liability once they received the video from my office.
One of the first things I did when I got this case
was to turn the video over to the police
and request that the aggressive driver be arrested
and charged with attempted murder of the motorcyclists.
To be sure, the insurance company is quite concerned about this accident after viewing the video, because they know there is direct evidence from the video that verifies their driver not only caused this accident, but can also be convicted of road rage.
The criminal matter is still pending, John’s actions of “tapping” the driver’s side mirror only escalated the aggressive behavior of the driver who initiated the road rage because the driver then tried to chase John down and harm him. John should not have made any contact with the driver or the driver’s vehicle after the driver initially displayed aggressive, violent behavior. John should have taken down the license plate of the vehicle and called the police. However, the driver’s intentional acts of chasing John down and striking him with his vehicle were completely disproportionate to John’s act of “tapping” the driver’s side mirror. John is still receiving medical care for the injuries he sustained in this accident and we are wishing him a speedy recovery and a return to this good health.
COMMON ACTIONS THAT RESULT IN ROAD RAGE
- Cutting off another driver
- Not allowing another driver to pass
- Giving another driver a one-fingered salute or some other obscene gesture
- Fighting over a parking space
- Stuck behind a slow driver
- Honking excessively at another driver
- Blinding another driver with high beams on a dark road
WAYS TO AVOID ROAD RAGE
Staying calm and being aware are the best ways to avoid road rage. Here are some additional tips that can help.
Move over if someone wants to pass you: Be courteous and allow other drivers to pass you or get over into your lane if it is safe to do so. If you are the one trying to change lanes in bumper to bumper traffic, signal to the driver next to you and “ask” if you can move in.
Move over if someone is tailgating you: If someone is tailgating you, signal and move out of the way if you can do so safely. The act of signaling alone should communicate to the aggressive driver that you are trying to accommodate them.
Lay off the horn: Excessive honking is a road rage trigger for many people and it’s generally a rude thing to do. Use your horn sparingly, and in situations when you need to alert another driver of your presence in order to avoid an accident.
Avoid eye contact with an aggressive driver: Roughly half of U.S. drivers reported responding to an enraged driver by yelling back or making a rude gesture. As many as 73% of road rage incidents involve a firearm. This alone is an excellent reason to avoid any kind of contact whatsoever with an enraged driver.
Use an “I’m sorry” gesture: If you’ve encountered an aggressive driver that has communicated some obscene, obnoxious or rude gesture to you, don’t “return the favor” with a one-fingered salute or something of that kind. This can only escalate the other driver’s rage. Instead, even if you think you are in the right, communicate a gesture that says “I’m sorry.” Many times, the simple gesture “I’m sorry” can diffuse a very tense situation.
Be aware of your high beams: When its dark outside and you are using your high beams to increase visibility, always remember to switch over to regular beams when you see an oncoming vehicle. Being blinded by an inconsiderate person’s high beams on a dark road can lead to road rage.
If you do become a victim of another driver’s road rage, note the license plate number, and model of the vehicle that has threatened you and call 911. If you’re being followed, drive to the nearest police station and request assistance. If you are not near a police station, drive to a location where others can help you immediately, such as a convenience store, shopping center, or a hospital. Use your horn excessively to get someone’s attention. This will usually discourage an aggressive driver. If driving, do not get out of your car. Do not go home. Put as much distance as possible between your motorcycle and the aggressive driver.
Susan Handel is a lawyer who specializes in personal injury law, with an emphasis on motorcycle accidents resulting in catastrophic injuries and fatalities. For more information visit her on the web at www.handellaw.com or call Toll Free Nationwide 800.564.1164.