Road rage is aggressive or angry behavior by a driver of an automobile or other motor vehicle. Such behavior might include rude gestures, verbal insults, deliberately driving in an unsafe or threatening manner, or making threats. Road rage can lead to altercations, assaults, and collisions which result in injuries and even deaths. It can be thought of as an extreme case of aggressive driving.
The term originated in the United States during the 1980s, specifically from Newscasters at KTLA a local television station in Los Angeles, California. The term originated in 1987-1988, where a rash of freeway shootings occurred on the 405, 110 and 10 freeways in Los Angeles. These shooting sprees even spawned a response from the AAA Motor Club to its members on how to respond to drivers with road rage or aggressive maneuvers and gestures.
The following are common manifestations of road rage:
- Generally aggressive driving, including sudden acceleration, braking, and close tailgating.
- Cutting others off in a lane, or deliberately preventing someone from merging.
- Sounding the vehicle's horn in intimidating or threatening melodies.
- Flashing lights excessively.
- Yelling or exhibiting disruptive behavior at roadside establishments.
- Driving at high speeds in the median of a highway to terrify drivers in both lanes.
- Rude gestures (such as "the finger", or "mean face").
- Shouting verbal abuses or threats.
- Intentionally causing a collision between vehicles.
- Hitting other vehicles.
- Exiting the car to attempt to start confrontations, including striking other vehicles with an object.
- Threatening to use or using a firearm or other deadly weapon.
- Throwing projectiles from a moving vehicle with the intent of damaging other vehicles.
In the U.S., more than 300 cases of road rage annually have ended with serious injuries or even fatalities – 1200 incidents per year, according to the AAA Foundation study, and rising yearly throughout the six years of the study that examined police records nationally.
In some jurisdictions there may be a legal difference between "road rage" and "aggressive driving." In the U.S., only a few states have enacted special aggressive driving laws, where road rage cases — about 1,200 a year — are normally prosecuted as assault and battery (with or without a vehicle), or "vehicular homicide" (if someone is killed).
Road rage as a medical condition
As early as 1997, therapists in the United States were working to certify road rage as a medical condition. It is already an official mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. According to an article published by the Associated Press in June 2006, the behaviors typically associated with road rage are the result of intermittent explosive disorder. This conclusion was drawn from surveys of some 9,200 adults in the United States between 2001 and 2003 and was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. The cause of intermittent explosive disorder has not been described to date. There are differing views on whether or not "road rage" is a mental issue. Regardless of whether it is or not, there are alternative solutions for overcoming this handicap.
Road rage is a relatively serious act: It may be seen as an endangerment of public safety. It is, however, not always possible to judge intent by external observation, so "road ragers" who are stopped by police may be charged with other offenses such as careless or reckless driving.. In some jurisdictions, such as the American Commonwealth of Virginia, it is easier to prosecute road rage as reckless driving instead of aggressive driving simply because the burden of proof does not require "intent" to successfully convict.
It is likely that those causing serious injury or death during "road rage" incidents will suffer more serious penalties than those applicable to similar outcomes from simple negligence. In April 2007, a Colorado driver was convicted of first-degree murder for causing the deaths of two motorists in November 2005. He will serve a mandatory sentence of two consecutive life terms.
Fourteen U.S. states have passed laws against aggressive driving. Only one state, California, has turned "road rage" into a legal term of art by giving it a particular meaning. It is worth noting, however, that in Virginia aggressive driving is punished as a lesser crime (Class 2 misdemeanor) than reckless driving (Class 1 misdemeanor).
In New Zealand Road rage is not a specific offence. Police do not normally take road rage complaints seriously and only act when somebody has been seriously assaulted or killed by an angry driver, this means chasing another motorists and/or displaying intimidating styles of driving and/or bullying other motorists are not usually dealt with by police and even if a complaint is made regarding these aggressive acts of driving, police seldomly prosecute the offending driver other than at best send a "warning letter of concern" to the individual/s concerned. There have been calls for the law to be changed regarding road rage but the current new Zealand government have no plans on introducing such legislation that punishes drivers who committ road rage.
In New South Wales Australia Road rage is considered an extremely serious act, Any person who chases another motorist or shows intimidating and/or bullying towards another road user can be charged with Predatory Driving, a serious offence that can leave the culprit in jail for up to 5 years, fined AU$100000 and be disqualified from driving. once more if the predatory driving results in a physical assault and/or the victims car was intentially damaged, the penalties can be even greater.
Additionally, most common law countries prohibit common assault, which could apply to road rage where the personal safety of the victim is seen to be threatened. The common law regards assault as both a criminal and civil matter, leading to both public criminal penalties and private civil liabilities.
In the UK, road rage can result in criminal penalties for assault or more serious offences against the person. The Public Order Act 1986 can also apply to road rage. Sections 4A and 5 of the 1986 Act prohibit public acts likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. Section 4 also prohibits threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause a victim to believe that violence will be used against himself or another.
A 2007 study of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas concluded that the cities with the least courteous drivers (most road rage) are Miami, Phoenix, New York, Los Angeles, and Boston. The cities with the most courteous drivers (least road rage) are Minneapolis, Nashville, St. Louis, Seattle, and Atlanta. In 2009, New York, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Atlanta and Minneapolis/St. Paul were rated the top five "Road Rage Capitals" of the United States.
- "Road rage" meaning and origin, Pprases.org.uk
- The Denver Post - Road-rage killer unrepentant
- Road-rage driver offers blame at sentencing: Local News: The Rocky Mountain News
- V.C. Section 13210 - Court-Ordered Suspension: Road Rage
- Road Rage Survey Reveals Best, Worst Cities
- New York Finally Named City with Worst Road Rage
- Controlling Road Rage: A Literature Review and Pilot Study Prepared for The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety By Daniel B. Rathbone, Ph.D. Jorg C. Huckabee, MSCE June 9, 1999
- Road Rage: Causes and Dangers of Aggressive Driving (transcript of a portion of the official hearing record of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure – 1997)
- Summary Table on Aggressive Driving Laws, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- Safer driving through reflective thinking – Redshaw, Sarah (2001), Drivers.com
- Survey of the States – Speeding, Governors Highway Safety Association
- Aggressive Driving Prevention, United States Army Victory Corps
- Senior Citizen Driving: Warning Signs and Helping an Unsafe Driver to Stop Driving, HelpGuide.org
- Whitlock, F.A., 1971, Death on the Road: A Study in Social Violence, London: Tavistock.
- Eberle, Paul (2006). Terror on the Highway. Buffalo: Prometheus Books. ISBN 9781591023791.
- Larson, John (1997). Steering Clear of Highway Madness. Wilsonville: Bookpartners. ISBN 188522138X.
- Extensive data regarding road rage and driving behavior can be found at the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website.
- Mobility without Mayhem: Safety, Cars, and Citizenship, by Jeremy Packer. This book contains a chapter about road rage.