The crowded roads of Greater Phoenix, including the 101, 202 and 303, are occupied with angry drivers making decisions in the heat of the moment escalating into road rage events that result in property damage, injuries and deaths.
Road rage begins with aggressive driving, which is a traffic offense, and road rage moves the offense into the criminal code as a very serious felony with prison, significant fines and life-changing restrictions as punishments.
Incidents of road rage collected by the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety showed 256 road rage events in 2018. In 2019 when Covid 19 loomed, the number fell to 200 incidents. In 2020 road rage increased to 460 episodes and 2021 is poised to surpass the record, the Arizona Republic reported
Arizona drivers are the most aggressive drivers in the U.S., with Phoenix and Tucson producing the majority according to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The underlying reasons for participating in road rage are impatience, anger and being in a hurry to get somewhere. Too often, road rage begets road rage in response.
Expressing road rage
The survey conducted
by NHTSA is revealing in that it shows how common expressing anger from behind the wheel is in the United States. The majority of drivers, 82 percent, admitted to expressing road rage or aggressive driving at least once since getting their driver’s licenses.
Using the horn is the main expression of road rage, 59 percent, followed by 45 percent who react to other drivers who change lanes without signaling.
Yelling or cursing are used by 42 percent of drivers and using obscene or rude gestures is 38 percent. A simple raising of the palm of a hand in defiance is not listed, perhaps this is just an expression of annoyance.
The five common road rage behaviors in Arizona are:
- Erratic lane changes
- Distracted driving
- Getting cut off
- Making improper turns
Avoid reacting to an errant driver
Authorities recommend not making eye contact and taking an off ramp or driving to a police station to avoid getting caught up in someone’s driving rage or errant driving.
For example, a friend of mine recently was driving on the 101 early one morning in light traffic when a SUV passed him on the left and abruptly changed lanes narrowly missing the front of his sports car. And my friend, a club racing veteran, was traveling at 80 mph in the center lane. But instead of engaging the aggressive driver, he changed lanes, made his pass and drove on leaving the SUV in the distance. Yes, the driver’s unsafe maneuver got my friend’s in-cabin verbal rebuke in response but passing cars is his second nature.
Aggressive driving behavior
The NHTSA lists aggressive driving that lead to road rage. These are:
- Failing to give the right away to another driver
- Not obeying traffic control signs
- Making an improper turn
- Not signaling for turning or lane changes
- Excessive or erratic lane changes
- Using the emergency lane to pass
- Suddenly reducing speeds without changing lanes
- Erratic careless or negligent driving
- Street racing
Age and gender in road rage events
Men younger than 30 are more likely to engage in road rage according to the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. More women have been on the receiving end of road rage. Millennials are 50 percent more likely to be involved in road rage or aggressive driving accidents. Boomers are considered to be the safest motorists.
Road rage causing fatalities and injuries
Road rage drivers are responsible for 54 percent of fatalities on America’s roads, reports the NHTSA. A total of 12,610 injuries and 218 murders occurred during a seven year period in the U.S.
Some participants in the NHTSA survey reported using a firearm to threaten or shoot to express their anger is. A firearm was used in 37 percent of aggressive driving episodes. Over seven years nationally, from 2013 through 2019, there were 218 murders and 12,610 injuries due to road rage.
Arizona has a greater percentage of drivers who use guns than other states.
Underlying factors of road rage
The NHTSA provided base reasons
in human behavior for participating in road rage. The agency stated that, “Sociologists point to the fragmentation of society and the disintegration of shared values and sense of community as the cause of these and other acts of incivility. Many psychologists blame the intoxicating combination of power and anonymity provided by motor vehicles.”
Road rage legally defined
Road rage is a “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other drivers and passengers and assaulting a driver, cyclist, or pedestrian by using a vehicle.” The prosecution must meet each of these elements to have a valid case.
Aggressive driving and road rage punishments
Aggressive driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor, a criminal offense, under Arizona Revised Statute §28-695.
The punishments are serving time in county jail for up to six months, must successfully finish traffic survival school, and fines up to $2,500. The license to drive is suspended for 30 days, but a second conviction within 24 months of the first, the license to drive is suspended for one year.
If the aggression becomes road rage, any criminal action taken, such as assault, becomes a felony with far greater punishments including a prison sentence, significant fines, and a criminal record that will remain public for 99 years. Convicted felons cannot own or possess a firearm, cannot vote in elections, or hold public office among many other life-changing restrictions.
Road rage defense
All cases have their unique set of facts that may become defensive arguments. Road rage incidents are sometimes personally witnessed or documented by cell phone cameras and on fixed surveillance cameras providing evidence that can make a winning defense possible or problematic.
The principal defense for road rage is ultimately self-defense. Arizonans are allowed to stand their ground to protect themselves from harm. Arizona Revised Statute §13-404
allows a person to use a certain level of force to protect themselves against harm.
Road rage itself is also entangled with related offenses, reckless or aggressive driving, aggravated assault, endangerment, manslaughter or homicide.
To be guilty of aggressive driving under Arizona Revised Statute §28-695, the prosecution must prove speeding and a minimum of two of these violations – failing to obey a traffic light or sign, overtaking and passing by driving off the pavement, changing lanes unsafely, tailgating or ignoring the yield of right-of-way.
The defense can challenge the accuracy of speed measured by radar, laser or another measuring device and interview witnesses if any.
Use Aaron M. Black law for your defense
Should you or a loved one be charged with road rage or the precursor aggressive driving, it is imperative to be promptly represented by a skilled criminal defense attorney such as myself. I believe that people are good and can sometimes make an error in judgment and become involved in a difficult legal situation.
That is why I aggressively defend people who are charged with a crime and why I work hard to ensure your constitutional rights have not be violated by the authorities.
I always have the goal of achieving a dismissal of the charges or an acquittal by conducting my own investigation of the prosecution’s evidence and the arresting agency’s procedures.
In using Aaron M. Black Law for your defense you will always be talking directly to me, never an assistant, at all stages of the case.
Begin your defense by calling 480-729-1683 at any time, on any day, and I will promptly return your call unless I am at trial or in court. Or use my online contact form
I defend road rage and aggressive driving charges in justice, municipal, state, and federal courts in and adjacent to Maricopa County.