Road Rage Car Accidents in Florida
Almost everyone has, at some point or another, experienced anger on the road. Cut off by another driver, forced to sit behind a slow vehicle, or watching another driver engage in dubious behavior around you: anything can trigger that unexpected frustration.
Some people, however, find that anger goes beyond mere irritation and becomes a more serious concern on the road. As many as 33 percent of accidents involving driver error can trace their source back to road rage: excessive speeding, illegally cutting another vehicle off, slamming on the brakes in front of another driver, or even deliberately slamming into another driver. Aggressive driving, which could include road rage, accounts for as many as 56 percent of car accidents each year. For seven years beginning in 2007, more than 200 murders and 12,000 injuries resulted from raging drivers on the road.
Understanding Road Rage
- Yell inside their cars (45 percent)
- Honk their horns angrily (35 percent)
- Make rude gestures (22 percent)
These symptoms of road rage generally cause little or no harm to other drivers. They offer a relatively safe way for drivers to vent their frustration without putting anyone else in danger. Unfortunately, road rage often escalates quickly. One raging driver can trigger another with an angry response. Then, road rage behaviors go beyond simply expressing anger to looking for retaliation. On the road, this might mean:
- Pulling sharply in front of another driver and slamming on the brakes
- Cutting off the other driver in traffic
- Refusing to share the lane or pushing another driver out of the lane
- Running red lights or stop signs
- Ignoring pedestrians or other vehicles in crosswalks or on the road
- Deliberately bumping or slamming into another vehicle
Worse, road rage might escalate to the point that it moves outside the vehicle. Drivers might deliberately pursue violence against one another. In some cases, this violence involves firearms, hauling another driver out of the car to strike or stab him, or attempting to run over him. Road rage often has severe consequences for both the angry driver and the victim.
How Road Rage Increases Car Accident Risk
Choosing to hit another car deliberately represents only a small percentage of accidents caused by road rage. In some cases, raging drivers may cause accidents without ever meaning to.
- Anger decreases judgment. Not only does anger increase the odds that a driver will behave in a way they never would under normal circumstances, but it can also decrease overall judgment and cause the driver to make poor decisions: running red lights instead of taking the time to stop for them, for example.
- Road rage can impair response time. Angry people may have slowed responses. In a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed, immediate response remains critical to avoid accidents. Not only do many raging drivers choose to speed, which requires faster responses to avoid an accident, those drivers may have slowed response times due to fury. Unfortunately, this substantially increases overall accident risk.
- Road rage leads to dangerous behaviors. Tailgating, for example, may prevent a driver from stopping in time if the front driver slams on the brakes or must stop suddenly. Running red lights or stop signs can place a driver in the middle of traffic in a dangerous intersection, often endangering not only the driver who caused the road rage, but other drivers in the area as well.
- Anger may cause unpredictable driving behavior. Other drivers cannot predict what a driver in the middle of a road rage attack might do next. As a result, those drivers may struggle to choose their own actions on the road, increasing the likelihood that they will strike a raging driver by mistake.
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Avoiding Raging Drivers
Ideally, you would avoid raging drivers by perfectly following the rules of the road. Unfortunately, many drivers make errors unintentionally or due to a brief lapse of attention. Other times, the recipient of another driver’s rage may make no greater error than driving in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you find yourself stuck near a driver struggling with road rage, try some of these strategies to keep yourself and others in your vehicle safer.
- Avoid making any gestures or signals back. Do not make rude or obscene gestures at the other driver, from shaking your fist to flipping them off. These crude gestures can increase road rage and increase the odds that the other driver will make a foolish decision that could cause an accident.
- Get out of the way. When you notice a driver behaving aggressively around you, do your best to get out of that driver’s way. Change lanes and allow them to get ahead of you. If necessary, pull off to the side of the road and allow them to pass. Consider changing your route: taking a different exit than you intended, for example, to help you get away from the aggressive driver.
- Practice defensive driving tactics. You never know how someone else’s day has gone. You might unexpectedly trigger road rage without intent. By driving defensively, however, you can avoid many common road rage triggers and keep yourself safer.
- Keep calm yourself. Once the cycle of rage starts, you may struggle to avoid responding. You might speed up your own vehicle or cut the other driver off in traffic to get them back for the aggression directed your way. By avoiding a response, however, you can prevent a brief moment of anger from turning into a more serious incident.
- Pay attention to a driver following you. Is there a raging driver on your tail, inching too close or speeding up, trying to cut you off, and then falling behind you again? To keep yourself safe from a raging driver, you may want to avoid going to an isolated destination or leading the driver straight to your home. If you feel worried about how a driver might treat you after an incident of road rage, change your plans and head to a place where you can count on assistance if needed.
- Do not get out of your car. You took an exit, pulled up at the gas station, and got out of your car, only to discover that the raging driver followed you. If possible, avoid getting out of your vehicle. You do not want to start a physical confrontation, and your vehicle can offer some protection from the raging driver.
- Summon the police if needed. If you believe an aggressive driver poses a danger to you or others around you, or if an aggressive driver followed you and got out of the car to threaten you, summon the police. Make sure you stop your vehicle in a safe location before using your cell phone or use voice recognition technology to call 911, since you need both hands on the wheel and all of your attention on the road to decrease accident risk around a raging driver.
Avoiding Road Rage in Yourself
Many drivers acknowledge their tendency toward road rage. You know what hazards it could present to other drivers or the passengers in your own vehicle, so you want to do better. How can you help decrease your own road rage? Try some of these tips.
- Ignore the urge to use obscene hand gestures or yell at other drivers. These actions rarely help you feel calmer. Instead, try taking a deep breath and trying to calm yourself down. Two drivers losing control only doubles the danger for everyone around you.
- Leave plenty of time to reach your destination. When you find yourself running late, you may struggle to keep your cool on the road, especially as other drivers appear to cause delays. When you have plenty of time to get to your destination, on the other hand, you may find it easier to keep your cool and avoid an accident. Keep in mind that speeding and other aggressive behaviors on the road will not effectively help you reach your destination faster—and an accident could prevent you from reaching your destination entirely.
- Conduct yourself as though your children (or respected friends) always ride with you. Sometimes, you may find it easier to avoid raging on the road if you know someone else will know about it. When you get used to behaving as though someone else sees every move you make on the road, you may find it easier to avoid accidents.
- Pay particular attention to your own vehicle, not what other people do. Focus on your destination. While you must watch other drivers on the road to ensure that you do not strike them or cause problems for them, try not to look specifically at other drivers. Having a sense of distance can help you treat any errors in judgment less personally.
- Listen to music or an audiobook that helps you stay calm. Keeping your attention on something besides the drive can make it easier to keep your cool as conditions deteriorate around you, even if you get stuck in bad traffic or must deal with drivers who seem distracted.
- Remember, most people do not engage in aggressive or dangerous driving behavior deliberately. You do not know what another driver must deal with or what distractions might cause problems in their vehicles. People often naturally judge themselves by their intentions, but others by their actions. While you cannot know another driver’s intentions, by trying to think the best of them, you may decrease your odds of raging on the road.
What to Do After an Accident With a Raging Driver
After an accident with a raging driver, you must conduct yourself appropriately. Follow some of these important steps after an accident:
- Follow local regulations about moving your vehicle. On a busy interstate, for example, you may need to move your vehicle to the side of the road if you can move it without causing danger to yourself, your passengers, or other drivers.
- Summon medical and police attention to the scene as soon as possible. Calling 911 will bring an ambulance and police officer to the scene of the accident. The ambulance can then transport you or any other injured victims to the hospital.
- Look for witnesses and collect contact information. Other drivers who stop immediately to help after an accident may provide vital evidence that can help establish that the other driver caused the accident due to road rage. By collecting their contact information, you can get in touch with them later, if you need them to provide testimony to the other driver’s insurance company or in a courtroom. Keep in mind that the sooner your attorney collects statements from those witnesses, the more accurate the testimony you will receive.
- Collect evidence. Take photos of the accident scene, if you can collect evidence without making your injuries worse or putting yourself in danger. You may want to collect photos of the other driver’s vehicle, your vehicle, and any injuries.
- Keep yourself safe. If the other driver continues to rage after the accident, avoid engaging with that driver. Though you may need to collect insurance information or contact information from a raging driver, wait until the police arrive on the scene if you feel unsafe collecting that information yourself. A police officer can help calm the situation and collect relevant information for you. If you need to leave the scene of the accident to protect your personal safety, especially if the other driver issues a threat, notify the police of your intended destination and leave the accident scene.
- Contact a lawyer. Road rage will not increase the compensation you receive after an accident, but evidence of road rage can help implicate the other driver in an accident. A lawyer can help you better understand the compensation you deserve from your accident and help you pursue that compensation, including collecting evidence of road rage in the other driver.
Road rage causes serious issues for everyone on the road. By avoiding raging drivers and avoiding road rage yourself, you can increase your odds of keeping yourself and others in your vehicle safe.