What’s the Difference Between Aggressive Driving and Road Rage?

Published on Oct 2, 2022 at 4:24 pm in Car Accidents.

What’s the Difference Between Aggressive Driving and Road Rage?
Sharing the road with a motorist who is engaging in unsafe driving behaviors is a stressful experience. Aggressive and reckless drivers make the road unsafe for everyone else and are more likely to cause a serious accident than someone who is following Mississippi’s traffic laws.

If you were injured in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, you might be facing an uphill battle to secure compensation from the insurance company. Disputes over liability can be time-consuming and costly, especially if you are unsure exactly which factors contributed to your collision.

The attorneys at Pittman Roberts & Welsh, PLLC are familiar with the many different causes of car accidents, including accidents caused by aggressive drivers. Here is what you need to know about how these kinds of accidents are often categorized.

What Is Aggressive Driving?

The term “aggressive driving” is relatively new and was first coined in the 1990s to help categorize certain dangerous driving behaviors. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as “the operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property.”

With that definition in mind, aggressive driving behaviors often include:

  • Speeding
  • Weaving in and out of traffic
  • Running red lights or stop signs
  • Passing on the shoulder or in a turn lane
  • Tailgating or following too closely
  • Ignoring the right of way
  • Brake checking
  • Blocking other drivers from changing lanes or passing

Aggressive driving is far from uncommon. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s 2019 data found that 80% of drivers admitted to engaging in aggressive driving one or more times over a 30-day period. It would be extremely difficult for anyone to travel the roads of Jackson, MS, without encountering their fair share of drivers who are behaving aggressively behind the wheel.

What Is Road Rage?

Road rage refers to angry or violent behavior exhibited by motorists, typically toward other drivers. The most common road rage behaviors our law firm sees when working with car accident victims are:

  • Yelling or making rude gestures at other drivers
  • Honking
  • Bumping or ramming another car on purpose
  • Driving in a way that purposely causes an accident

Drivers that engage in road rage are also much more likely to be aggressive drivers or fall into the category of “high-anger” drivers. Even when not particularly angry, these drivers are much more likely to make risky decisions behind the wheel, including speeding upwards of 20 mph over the speed limit.

High-anger drivers are also much more likely to become angered over minor issues or perceived aggressions. If you are ever the target of a road rage driver, call 9-1-1 and stay on the phone while you navigate to safety. Do not try to get revenge on the other driver or maintain your lead in a lane. Allow a road rage driver to pass and keep your distance, changing your route if necessary.

What Is the Difference Between Aggressive Driving and Road Rage?

While there is some overlap between aggressive driving and road rage, there are also some key differences. For example, most aggressive driving behaviors are considered traffic infractions. Speeding, running a red light, or rolling through a stop sign may result in a traffic ticket and a small fine if you are stopped by a police officer.

With some exceptions, road rage falls into the more serious category of a criminal offense. While you are unlikely to be charged with a crime for yelling or making rude gestures at another driver, you can certainly be arrested and charged for running another driver off the road or causing an accident on purpose.

One of the biggest differences comes down to intent. Aggressive driving does not necessarily seek to harm others on the road, while road rage almost always does.

How Are Aggressive Driving and Road Rage the Same?

Aggressive driving and road rage do not exist independently of one another. Unchecked aggressive driving is often the precursor to road rage. For example, a high-anger driver who is speeding and believes that another driver cut them off (whether intentionally or not) may quickly turn to screaming, gesturing, and other dangerous behaviors that may cause an accident.

What Should You Do if There’s an Aggressive Driver on the Road?

Never behave aggressively in response to an aggressive driver. This will only escalate the situation and may put you partially at fault for a resulting accident. At Pittman Roberts & Welsh, PLLC, we recommend taking the following steps if you are sharing the road with an aggressive driver or someone who is engaging in road rage behavior:

  • Separate yourself from the aggressive driver. Do your best to get out of the other driver’s way. Change lanes, allow them to pass, or take an alternative route.
  • Set aside your pride. Never challenge an aggressive driver. Matching their speed, not allowing them to pass, or cutting them off will only make the situation worse. It is not your job to ensure that everyone else is driving safely.
  • Avoid making eye contact. A high-anger driver might interpret eye contact as a challenge or a form of aggressive behavior. While you should always be aware of your surroundings when driving, do your best to avoid making eye contact with an aggressive driver.
  • Ignore any rude gestures. Stay calm if an aggressive driver yells or gestures rudely at you. Do not return any hand gestures and remain focused on the road.

We’re Advocates for Victims of Aggressive Driving and Road Rage

Injuries associated with road rage and aggressive driving are often serious. In addition to physical injuries, many victims also carry the emotional scars of being yelled at, rammed, or run off the road. At Pittman Roberts & Welsh, PLLC, we recognize that mental health care is often just as important as other medical treatments after serious car accidents.

If you are already dealing with medical bills (including for therapy), lost wages, and auto repairs, do not waste any time—contact us today to schedule your free consultation with one of our knowledgeable and compassionate car accident attorneys. We’ll explain all of your legal options and explore what caused your collision, including going over the difference between aggressive and reckless driving. There is never any obligation to move forward with a partnership with our law firm unless you feel confident that we are the right fit for your case.

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