Can You Go to Jail for Road Rage?
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Many people who drive have experienced road rage, on one or both sides of the interaction. If you've ever been cut off and got mad, did you give in to the rage? Have you ever bumbled into someone's lane only to be terrorized for the next thirty miles?
Aggressive tailgating, cutting ahead and slamming the breaks, laying on the horn, or flashing brights to hurt or frighten someone are all examples of road rage. Running cars off the road and even getting out of your car are the final stages of road rage that will most likely result in injury and criminal charges.
Can you really go to jail for road rage? While most states don't have specific laws against angry driving, there are plenty of road safety laws against endangering, threatening, and using a vehicle as a weapon.
Road rage can drive people to commit traffic violations and willful acts of aggression, with illegal acts ranging from misdemeanors to federal felonies.
What, exactly, is road rage?
According to Auto Collision Legal, road rage is when aggressive driving graduates to malicious action. We've all sped home a little too quickly, we've all been frustrated and in a hurry. Most have tailgated a little, you may have even honked when cut off.
But road rage occurs when you start to terrorize one or many other drivers around you. A few examples include flashing your lights and blaring your horn to upset and intimidate people, boxing others in or trying to drive them into the shoulder, and so on.
Essentially, road rage is when you get so mad that you could cause car accidents involving yourself and others. Any time a person's driving behaviors become reckless, erratic, or hostile as a targeted form of aggression, road rage has occurred.
Road rage isn't outlawed, but aggressive driving is
While California is the only state that has defined and outlawed road rage specifically, the symptoms of road rage are illegal in every state.
Tailgating and erratic lane changes, for example, are moving traffic violations whether or not they are done with malicious intent. These are misdemeanors most commonly handled with a fine, but other road rage behaviors can lead to more serious criminal charges.
Acting with aggressive intent to harm or intimidate someone is illegal in most states no matter what instrument you use. Menacing someone with your car qualifies as a deadly weapon and a felony.
How it can lead to criminal charges
Auto Collision Legal explains that if you get into an accident or a police officer sees an incident of road rage, you are most likely to be charged with reckless driving.
Swerving, tailgating, and other aggressive, but not necessarily hostile, driving actions are moving traffic violations. Reckless driving can see a small amount of jail time and fines within one to a few thousand dollars.
An assault charge can be leveled when the road rager has pushed or terrorized others with their vehicle.
Assault has occurred if aggressive and targeted actions hurt someone, recklessly disregard someone's safety, or cause them to genuinely fear for their safety. Threatening to punch someone is a form of assault, as is nearly running someone off the road or braking hard in front of them risking an accident.
Aggravated assault can be charged if someone gets hurt while a road rager is acting aggressively. For example, if the rager boxes their victim into a lane with obstacles that can't be avoided, this is a form of road rage aggravated assault and is a serious felony with up to 10 years of jail time for most states.
Assault with a deadly weapon occurs when your vehicle is the deadly weapon. Vehicles are considered deadly weapons when used to attack and threaten others.
Manslaughter and even murder 2 may be charged if road rage results in someone else's death. Any time actions result in a fatality, especially if those actions were hostile and dangerous, they can be charged as intentionally or recklessly taking that person’s life.
Don't let road rage get the best of you, either by raging out or getting boxed in by a raging driver. Drive safely and, just in case, have a well-built insurance safety net with Jerry.