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Is Road Rage a Crime if it Results in a Car Crash?

is road rage a crime

Whether you are commuting, running errands, or taking a road trip, road rage has emerged as a growing concern for many drivers. If you have been injured in a road rage incident, you are likely asking a critical question: Is road rage a criminal offense when it leads to an accident?

It’s hard for accident victims to navigate the law, and the best option is to work with an experienced personal injury attorney. Sometimes, there is a fine line between traffic infractions and criminal acts. To unravel the complexities, we will examine some definitions, statistics, and advice for motorists who have been injured in a road rage incident.

Definitions: What Is Considered Road Rage?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as something that happens when “an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.”

Road rage is described as “the angry and violent behaviors at the extreme of the aggressive driving continuum” or when a motorist “commits moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property; an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle on the operator or passengers of another motor vehicle.”

Ways to differentiate between aggressive driving and road rage:

  • Aggressive driving is a traffic violation and offense.
  • Shouting and gesticulating are not considered to be road rage, and a motorist will not face road rage charges for yelling or making rude gestures. True road rage, because it involves violent behavior including assault, is a criminal offense. It has to be directed towards a specific driver for it to be considered a road rage incident. It may be caused because a driver cut another driver off or made a driving mistake; this angers the second driver who targets the first.

Road Rage Statistics in the US

In Kentucky, an aggressive driving event occurred every 9.1 minutes.

There is research about drivers who don’t obey traffic laws, including those who put public safety at risk by engaging in road rage.

Some of those troubling statistics include:

traffic fatalities
  • In some cases, road rage leads to fatalities. Approximately 30 murders per year in the U.S. are the result of road rage incidents.
  • High-anger drivers have twice as many accidents in driving simulations.
  • 50% of drivers respond to the mistakes of other drivers with aggressive behavior themselves
  • 33% of all driving accidents can be linked to road rage conduct such as illegal maneuvers, speeding, tailgating, and switching lanes without signaling.
  • In 2022, 79% of people admitted to committing an act of road rage in the past year.
  • Fatal crashes linked to aggressive driving increased 500% in the 10 years between 2006 and 2015.
  • Up to 66% of all traffic fatalities are indirectly caused by aggressive driving.
  • Most studies show that young male adults are most likely to exhibit road rage behaviors.

Common Elements of Road Rage Cases

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Office of Highway Safety warns about these telltale signs of aggressive driving:

road rage
  • Running stop signs, red lights, and other traffic signals
  • Driving over the posted speed limit
  • Racing or other forms of reckless driving
  • Tailgating too closely
  • Weaving in and out of lanes of traffic (improper or erratic lane changes)
  • Illegally driving on the shoulder, sidewalk, or median
  • Failing to obey traffic signs, traffic control devices, or traffic officers, failure to observe safety zone traffic laws
  • Passing where prohibited
  • Failing to yield the right of way
  • Making hand and facial gestures
  • Making verbal threats
  • Screaming at the other driver
  • Throwing things at another vehicle or driver
  • An attempt to drive another vehicle off the road
  • Brandishing or using a firearm
  • Side swiping or crashing into another vehicle on purpose

Any motorist who puts others in danger of bodily injury should face penalties for their actions, including license suspension, especially if their anger caused a crash with serious injuries.

The Kentucky Office of Highway Safety reports that 31% of crashes in the Commonwealth involve a speeding or aggressive driver. This is why they launched the “Not So Fast, Kentucky” campaign that ran in the summer of 2021. 

Recent Kentucky Road Rage Incidents with Fatalities

Tragically, road rage incidents often lead to serious consequences. In recent years, these drivers have caused irreparable damage to human life, with many crashes leading to catastrophic bodily injury or even death.

Some of these collisions with fatalities include:

road rage crime

June 28, 2021: A road rage incident in Florence, KY led to one driver critically wounding the other by stabbing him with a broken beer bottle.

November 30, 2020: A road rage incident led to a shooting on I-71 in Campbellsburg, KY.

October 09, 2020: A driver was shot and killed by another driver with a deadly weapon in a road rage incident on I-75 in NKY.

It’s clear that aggressive driving can lead to motor vehicle crashes. It can also escalate to road rage, which can lead not only to crashes but also to other violence, such as shootings.

What Should You Do if Someone is Driving Aggressively?

If you encounter an aggressive driver on the roads in Kentucky, there are actions you can take to keep yourself safe, even when they are engaging in reckless driving on account of their anger.

We hope that it is obvious that the absolute worst thing to do is to escalate the situation. Do not try to get “revenge” on another driver who has tailgated you or cut you off.

Additional recommendations include:

  • Focus on your safety and the safety of your passengers, not the person who has a wanton disregard for everyone else on the road.
  • Let the aggressive driver pass you. Keep distance between you.
  • Do not speed up or attempt to hold your lane when other drivers challenge you with anger or aggression of any kind.
  • Report the unsafe driver to the police; note the license plate number, the car model, color, the driver’s location and direction. A police officer will need this information.
  • If you are approached or followed, do not stop and get out. Drive to the nearest police station or fire station, while keeping doors locked and windows closed. Do not drive home!
  • Avoid eye contact.
  • When possible, stay in the right-hand lane. This is supposed to be the non-passing lane. If slower drivers stay in the right-hand lane, it reduces traffic congestion and angry drivers.

Considering the fact that aggressive driving and road rage are common, you may find yourself involved in a crash caused by a driver whose impulsivity and short fuse prompted dangerous driving, intentional or not. If this is the case, you need an experienced auto accident lawyer on your side, especially if the guilty party has hired a criminal defense attorney.

What Kind of Penalties Do Road Rage Drivers Face?

The law regarding road rage allows other drivers to face a criminal charge for their road rage, even if it was their first offense of reckless driving. The consequences and need for a criminal defense lawyer will depend on the type and severity of the offense.

Most states recognize that fines are not enough, and so the law allows for penalties to include criminal charges and more.

The prosecutor will build a criminal case against the person who caused a crash through their aggressive, reckless driving, which may include fines and charges of:

  • Reckless driving
  • Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon
  • Vehicular manslaughter
  • Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Criminal negligence
  • Hit and run
  • Attempted vehicular homicide
  • Endangerment
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Aggressive driving charges
  • Simple assault

In addition to criminal charges, they may face license suspension, jail time, fines, and harsher penalties for more serious criminal offenses. Beyond this list, if another crime was committed during the act of reckless driving, they can face the appropriate penalties including losing their driver’s license for this and any other crimes.

What to Do If You Were Injured in a Road Rage Incident

road rage driver

When a crash changes your life, you deserve compensation for the negligence of the other driver negligence.

The driver facing license suspension of their driver’s license, fines, penalties, criminal charges including simple assault, and jail time after a conviction for their crime may help you feel better about the fact that they are going to face legal consequences, but that doesn’t resolve your pain or suffering, and it certainly doesn’t pay your bills while you are trying to recover.

Kentucky’s law system allows you to seek compensation for your injuries, even if the person who caused your crash has been charged with a criminal offense such as assault. A knowledgeable law firm can review your case and help you understand your options.

The statute of limitations according to Kentucky law is only one year. You should not wait for a conviction of aggressive drivers before you request an initial consultation with an attorney.

McCoy & Sparks | Kentucky Road Rage Lawyers

At McCoy & Sparks, we’ll work tirelessly to get you the result you deserve.

We’ve been recognized as one of the best law firms for over a decade because McCoy & Sparks works to help people in trouble, representing thousands of clients in Central Kentucky with a focus on providing premium service and delivering superior results.

At your initial consultation, we will review your case and attempt to help you determine the next best steps. Let’s make the law work in your favor!

Call 844-4KY-WINS or contact us online for a free consultation.