We have all heard the engine rev behind us a time or two right before a sports car burst out from behind us and begins weaving through lanes of traffic. Whether a driver is late for work, showing off for his friends, frustrated with traffic, or simply a reckless individual, aggressive driving is one of the most common reasons for car accident fatalities in Florida. Unlike simple negligence, i.e., a low speed rear-end accident or parking lot fender-bender, aggressive driving typically involves high-speed driving, dangerous lane changes, and unexpected maneuvers, which have a higher chance of causing serious and fatal injuries to innocent drivers.
Florida Aggressive Driving Statistics
According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, “aggressive driving” is defined as when “an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.” It is estimated that nearly two-thirds of all traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving, and the following are reported to be the most common aggressive driving maneuvers witnessed by United States drivers:
- Following too closely;
- Improper or erratic lane changing;
- Illegal driving on shoulders, sidewalks, or medians;
- Prohibited and dangerous passing and merging;
- Sudden and erratic speed changes;
- Failure to yield right of way;
- Failure to obey traffic control devices and signs;
- Driving too fast and/or racing; and
- Making improper turns.
Overall, it is reported that speeding is the leading cause of fatalities as related to aggressive driving crashes. This is because the higher the speed of the aggressive vehicle in relation to your vehicle, the greater the transfer of force from the speeding vehicle to your vehicle, and the greater the transfer of force, the greater the chance you will sustain severe full-body impact injuries as your muscles and tendons absorb the impact of the crash. This can result in fatal traumatic brain injuries such as diffuse axonal injury, where the brain crashes back and forth against the skull, or serious whiplash type injuries when the nerves in your neck and spine are strained and torn. Again, the faster the speed of the aggressive vehicle in relation to your vehicle, the more energy will flow through your vehicle and body.
Florida Aggressive Driving Laws
You may not generally consider yourself to be an aggressive driver, but you would be surprised how even common driving behaviors can fall into the aggressive driving category. For example, 25% percent of drivers surveyed admitted to entering an intersection just as the light was turning red. This is something that many may be guilty of, especially if traffic conditions are heavy and the light is short. Many do not comprehend, however, that this is considered aggressive driving and can lead to serious injuries and fatalities on Florida’s roads. For this reason, all states, including Florida, have a traffic code that criminalizes and defines aggressive driving behavior so as to reduce accidents and fatalities. In Florida, “aggressive careless driving” is legally defined as committing two or more of the following acts simultaneously:
- Exceeding the speed limit;
- Improper or unsafe lane changes;
- Following too closely;
- Failure to yield;
- Improper passing; and
- Violating traffic control devices and signs.
So the question remains if all of these behaviors are otherwise illegal, what purpose does it serve to categorize and define aggressive and careless driving in Florida? In fact, police officers in Florida will check a special box on a police report to indicate that the accident was caused by aggressive driving, which can be vital evidence of recklessness if you are seeking compensation for your personal injuries due to an aggressive careless driver.
Recklessness vs. Negligence
When a car accident occurs and the injuries are serious enough to merit litigation in Florida’s courts, the legal theory on which the case is typically based is called “negligence.” This essentially means that the driver who caused the accident was not acting with the care he or she should have when operating the motor vehicle, but this could be as simple as looking at his or her phone for a moment and getting in a low speed rear-end accident. Although aggressive driving clearly qualifies as “negligence,” because Florida’s lawmakers have taken the time to single out and report such behavior, shouldn’t there be something more?
There is. It is called a cause of action called “recklessness,” and it can even be considered a felony in Florida. Because reckless driving, which often includes aggressive careless driving, is defined as when a person is guilty of willfully disregarding the safety of others with a “dangerous weapon,” i.e., the motor vehicle, you may be able to seek what is known as “punitive damages” at trial. Generally, in personal injury litigation, you are only entitled to direct compensation for your injuries, such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If the driver was driving recklessly, however, you may be entitled to an additional award of damages meant to actually punish the defendant for endangering your safety and the safety of others. This award is above and beyond that which can be obtained in compensation for your injuries.
Contact a Clearwater Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you or a loved one was injured in an accident involving an aggressive careless or reckless driver, you likely suffered serious injuries, and they may not be solely physical injuries. You are entitled to extensive compensation if another driver was so careless as to completely disregard your life and safety. However, it takes additional evidence and effort to prove that a driver was reckless in causing your accident and an experienced personal injury attorney can help guide you through the process of understanding the difference between careless negligence, aggressive careless driving, and criminal reckless driving.
The Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA has your premier personal injury and reckless driving attorneys in the greater Clearwater area, and they have experience fighting for your right to compensation not just for your injuries, but also as a means of punishing those offenders who carelessly endanger others. Contact them today online or at (727) 451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation about your car accident.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765