Road rage is no joke. California’s traffic is bad enough that it can raise tempers past the boiling point. When that happens, everyday road encounters can turn into dangerous road rage incidents, sweeping up innocent bystanders in their wake.
California’s roads are filled with hazards, many of them created by other motorists. One survey found that 8 out of 10 people drive aggressively every single day. People drive distracted, don’t use their signals, swerve into lanes, tailgate, and drive aggressively all the time. If someone’s having a bad day, their emotions may get the better of them. But that doesn’t make it okay.
Road rage can come out of nowhere and escalate quickly. Some road rage behavior can actually be illegal, especially if it causes you harm or fear of harm. Threatening to harm someone or intentionally trying to harm another person on the road is unacceptable.
If you get caught up in a road rage incident, you may feel your own temper rising in response. But keeping your cool can actually help you protect yourself against someone else’s outburst. And if the situation does end up escalating with more serious consequences, you can protect your rights and demand damages in a personal injury lawsuit.
What Road Rage Looks Like
Road rage happens when frustration and stress explode into anger and aggression.
Someone on the road may feel like they were “wronged” in some way – for example, because they got cut off or blocked from entering a lane. One small slight could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back after a long day, so they snap. But road rage may also be completely unrelated to anything happening on the actual road. Someone may be stressed about life circumstances, concerned about getting somewhere on time, or on an upsetting phone call.
A driver who is emotionally compromised in this way is a danger to themselves and everyone around them. A 5-year study found that aggressive driving played a factor in over half of fatal car crashes. 2021 was actually the worst year on record for road rage shootings.
Meanwhile, whoever “caused” the slight that set off the road rage may not even notice they’ve wronged anyone. They may have simply made a mistake without realizing.
Be on the lookout for signs of road rage, such as:
- Swearing, yelling, insulting, or threatening you or other motorists
- Honking excessively and making offensive hand gestures
- Waving a gun or weapon at other drivers
- Intentionally cutting off other cars on the road
- Leaving their vehicle to assault or threaten another driver
- Driving aggressively or with the intent to intimidate other drivers
- Tailgating, weaving between lanes, or crowding or side-swiping other vehicles
- Breaking traffic laws such as improperly crossing double lines or intersections
For some drivers, road rage can be a one-time incident where their emotions got the better of them. But many road rage incidents are actually caused by repeat offenders who regularly have issues managing their anger, both on and off the road.
What Can You Do to Handle Road Rage Incidents?
Defensive driving is always a safe bet, but especially when facing road rage.
Even if you feel threatened by road rage, try your best to stay calm. And even if you feel the urge to respond in kind to road rage, try your best to avoid escalating the situation.
- Regulate your own emotional response. When a driver acts aggressively or threateningly towards you, your first urge may be to respond out of fear or anger yourself. Even with the rush of adrenaline, try to stay calm. Remember that a driver experiencing road rage is acting irrationally. Your goal is to get from one place to another, not to “win” a fight in traffic. Try to set your ego aside and let the angry driver have their way. This may feel “unfair,” but it’s by far the safest route.
- Avoid engaging the angry driver with words or eye contact. Eye contact can come off as aggression, so try not to stare at the angry driver or respond to their threats with words of your own. If you were in the wrong, a simple, apologetic wave should be enough. If a driver is tailgating you, don’t respond by brake-checking, which can be extremely dangerous. If an angry driver tries to corner you or approach you, stay in your car, call the authorities, and honk your horn to get the attention of passersby.
- Try to distance yourself from the aggressive driver if you can. The best course of action around an irrational driver is to distance yourself from them as much as possible. If a driver is tailgating you, let them pass on their way. Avoid stopping unless you have to at stoplights, as this can give drivers the opportunity to approach you.
- Get somewhere safe where you can call for help. If you feel threatened by another driver for any reason, go to a police station or call 911. Try to stay in well-lit, populated areas and avoid dark, isolated areas like parking garages.
- Gather witness information if you can. If you experience a road rage incident, try to get a description of the driver, their license plate number, and their car. Get contact information from any witnesses who may have seen the incident, if you can.
Ultimately, drivers are responsible for their own actions. No matter what you do, if someone is acting irrationally because of road rage, they’re liable for any harm that they cause. By staying calm, you can show that you did your best to avoid escalating the situation.
Can You Sue a Driver for Road Rage?
When road rage escalates, it can cause serious consequences, including car accidents.
If another driver’s anger, aggression, or rage causes a crash, then you can sue them for any injuries or losses you suffer. After all, they should be responsible for their actions.
To file a successful personal injury lawsuit after a road rage incident, you should get prompt medical attention, file a police report, get witness information, and write down exactly what happened while the details are fresh in your memory. Your lawyer can help you gather the evidence you need to put forward the strongest case possible.
At Sepulveda Sanchez Law Firm, we help victims of road rage all across California and the Central Valley. Click here to contact our talented team of attorneys now for a consultation.