Road rage in North Carolina threatens hundreds of lives each year.
Our Asheville personal injury lawyers know that typically when we hear about these cases, it’s a matter of criminal law. (As was the situation last month when a Salsbury man with eight guns – four handguns, three rifles and a shotgun – was arrested for pointing one of those weapons at an off-duty state trooper and his girlfriend as he passed in his vehicle.)
Here’s a fact: There are a large number of injuries and fatalities caused by road rage that are often not correctly attributed. We may see contributing factors listed as “speed” or “reckless driving,” but we won’t necessarily see notation of aggression. Sometimes, it can be difficult for law enforcement to discern whether a crash was caused by negligence or aggression. While the outcome may be the same regardless, someone who intentionally inflicts harm upon another – for any reason – is going to face stiffer penalties and civil liability.
Road rage awareness has become even more important in the wake of a national debate on guns following a deadly elementary school shooting in Connecticut last month. Of course, any incident of a threat made with a gun is going to potentially rise to the level of newsworthiness.
Still, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn’t keep statistics on road rage incidents, and neither does the Centers for Disease Control (which tracks violent deaths).
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, however, did conduct a recent study of the issue, combing through hundreds of thousands of police reports, and revealed that some 10,000 road rage incidents were committed over the course of seven years between 1990 and 1996. Those instances resulted in at least 12,600 injuries and roughly 220 murders.
Updated figures aren’t available, but it’s worth pointing out that road rage is not limited to those instances involving firearms. Let’s not forget that vehicles themselves are often wielded as deadly weapons, and some motorists fail to take into account the potential damage they can cause by “proving a point” to another driver.
While you can’t be held responsible for the aggression of another driver, you can react defensively by understanding these common indicators of road rage:
- Speeding. This is one of the most common – and deadly – expressions of roadway aggression. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that speed is a factor in one-third of all traffic deaths.
- Tailgating. Interestingly, a study by a British researcher found that while more than 60 percent of drivers reported having someone follow behind them too closely, only six percent reported having been the aggressor.
- Gesturing. This would include using or returning obscene gestures to express anger to another driver. Some people feel invincible in their vehicles. They’re not.
- Staring or leering. If you can avoid eye contact with the aggressor, you may be able to deescalate the situation.
- Shouting or yelling. Again, returning the shouts only serves to escalate tensions, as does braking suddenly, honking or flashing your lights.
If you do find yourself fearing for your safety or that of your passengers, try your best to avoid confrontation and head straight to the nearest police station.
If you’ve been involved in a traffic accident, contact the Lee Law Offices today for a free and confidential appointment by calling 800-887-1965.
Ten surefire signs of road rage, Jan. 16, 2013, Press Release, QualityHealth’s Medical Advisory Board
More Blog Entries:
Excessive Speed a Highly Risky Behavior & Top Car Accident Cause, Dec. 22, 2012, North Carolina Car Accident Lawyer Blog