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The term “road rage” was originally coined back in 1987 by a Los Angeles news station after a series of freeway shootings that resulted in five deaths and 11 injuries. Since then, this type of overly aggressive driving has become an ever-increasing problem on American roads.

Definitions

Many definitions of road rage exist, such as this one from Merriam-Webster: “a motorist’s uncontrolled anger that is usually provoked by another motorist’s irritating act and is expressed in aggressive or violent behavior.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, on the other hand, distinguishes aggressive driving, which it defines as “a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property” from road rage, which it defines as “an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of one motor vehicle or precipitated by an incident that occurred on a roadway.”

The NHTSA thus classifies road rage as a criminal act but aggressive driving as a traffic offense. This may, however, be a distinction without any real difference, since traffic law is a species of quasi-criminal law.

Examples

However you personally choose to define road rage, most people know it when you see it. Examples of its less serious forms include another driver doing any of the following:

  • Excessively honking his or her horn at you
  • Making an obscene gesture at you
  • Shouting at you
  • Tailgating you
  • Deliberately preventing you from changing lanes

The more serious forms of this phenomenon, which often lead to accidents and injuries, include another driver engaging in any of the following behaviors:

  • Passing you at an excessive rate of speed and then immediately slowing down, thus forcing you to slam on your brakes in order to avoid hitting him or her
  • Deliberately bumping, ramming or sideswiping your vehicle
  • Deliberately swerving into your lane
  • Cutting you off
  • Throwing objects at you
  • Pointing a gun at you or, worse yet, actually firing at you
  • Running you off the road

Causes

Many mental health experts theorize that the initial anger that leads to road rage has nothing to do with traffic or other drivers. For instance, the driver may be angry about something a spouse or partner supposedly did or said, or he or she may be upset about some work-related incident. Whatever the original impetus, angry thoughts fill the person’s head and begin to affect his or her actions, even when not related to the true cause of the anger. In other words, the driver is already primed to react negatively to the slightest perceived insult from another driver.

Specifically, the following four triggers represent the most common “reasons” for road rage:

  1. Getting caught in heavy, slow-moving traffic, especially when already running late
  2. Observing someone else driving erratically while talking or texting on his or her cellphone
  3. Believing one’s own appointments and errands are more important than anyone else’s and therefore feeling great impatience at other drivers’ seemingly unconcerned attitudes while on the road
  4. Considering the roadway a safe place to express anger since drivers don’t know each other and the likelihood of seeing them again is slim

Nationwide Statistics

The following nationwide road rage statistics reveal just how serious this problem has become:

  • Between 2015 and 2021, the reported cases of road rage increased by 500%.
  • Road rage incidents caused 12,610 injuries and 218 murders during this time period.
  • In 2019 alone, nearly 82% of surveyed drivers admitted to committing an act of road rage.
  • Through May of 2021, road rage incidents involving a gun had risen to 353, with 51% of the incidents resulting in injury or death.

Studies show that men between the ages of 18 and 34 years exhibit the most road rage. Other age-related statistics include the following:

  • Millennials account for 51% of all road rage incidents nationwide.
  • Gen-Xers account for 21%.
  • Baby boomers account for only 4.2%.
  • All other age groups combined account for the remaining 23.8%.

Michigan Statistics

By July of 2021, Michigan was on track to have the deadliest road rage year ever. At that point, the Michigan State Police had responded to 26 freeway shootings in metro Detroit alone. Lt. Mike Shaw reported that, in his 20 years with the organization, he’d never seen this level of violence on the roads. He added, “[People] are actually getting into arguments and shooting each other over not using a turn signal.”

Michigan Law

Michigan has no road rage law as such. Instead, depending on the havoc they create, drivers who exhibit such behaviors can be charged with any number of other crimes, including the following:

  • Reckless driving
  • Assault with a dangerous weapon
  • Intentional discharge of a firearm from a motor vehicle
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder

All of these crimes are felonies that carry very stiff penalties upon conviction.

In addition, if alcohol or drugs played a part in the road rage, drivers can be charged with one of the following:

  • OWI – operating while intoxicated
  • UBAL – unlawful bodily alcohol level
  • OWVI – operating while visibly impaired
  • OUID – operating while under the influence of drugs

Your Rights

If you sustain injuries in a vehicle crash or other incident brought about by another driver’s overly aggressive driving behaviors, you can sue him or her for compensation to cover your present and future medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress and other injury-related expenses and losses.

If the other driver’s actions were intentional, you can also sue for gross negligence, defined in Michigan as “conduct so reckless as to demonstrate a substantial lack of concern for whether an injury results.”

Furthermore, if he or she is convicted of a crime, you may be eligible to receive additional monetary restitution via the criminal case.

Criminal Prosecution vs Civil Lawsuit

This brings up a very important point of which you should be aware. You have the right to sue a road rage driver regardless of whether the state chooses to prosecute him or her and regardless of the jury’s verdict in any such criminal prosecution. You also have a good chance of winning your civil lawsuit even if the jury acquits the driver of a crime.

For one thing, your burden of proof is much lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard to which a criminal prosecutor is held. Proving responsibility in a civil suit, however, requires only a “preponderance of the evidence.” Basically, this means that a plaintiff need prove only that it’s more likely than not that the defendant was responsible.

OJ Simpson Case

Perhaps the most notorious example of such a situation was the OJ Simpson case back in the 1990s. When Simpson’s former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her associate Ron Goldman were discovered brutally murdered on the grounds of her home in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, the State of California prosecuted Simpson for two counts of murder. The nation was caught up in the ensuing weeks-long televised trial. Ultimately the jury acquitted Simpson.

The families of Ms. Simpson and Mr. Goldman then filed a wrongful death action against OJ. Here the result was much different. The jury found OJ responsible for both deaths and ordered him to pay $33.5 million to the plaintiffs.

How To Begin the Process

If you sustained injuries in a Michigan road rage incident, the recommended course of action is to contact the Mike Morse Law Firm as soon as possible. We practice only personal injury law and serve the entire state of Michigan. To date, our team of knowledgeable and experienced attorneys have obtained over $1 billion in settlements and jury awards for our injured clients.

 

Sources:
https://www.safemotorist.com/Articles/road_rage/
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/road%20rage 
https://one.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/aggressionwisc/chapter_1.htm
https://www.geico.com/living/driving/auto/car-safety-insurance/7-ways-to-avoid-road-rage/
https://www.thezebra.com/resources/research/road-rage-statistics/
https://www.wxyz.com/news/2021-is-on-track-to-be-the-deadliest-on-record-for-road-rage-data-shows
https://www.topdriver.com/education-blog/causes-of-road-rage/

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