The two most common causes of car accidents in Florida are negligence and distracted driving, but a third leading cause of accidents is road rage. “Road rage,” as a term, came into popular use in the late 1980s when a string of traffic-related shootings occurred in the Los Angeles, California area. Today, it typically refers to aggressive driving including tailgating, sudden acceleration, cutting people off, sudden braking, blocking other drivers from merging into a lane, rude gestures, yelling at other drivers, pursuing other cars through traffic in order to engage in verbal or physical altercations, intentionally hitting other vehicles and other kinds of verbal or physical altercations with other drivers, excessive use of the horn or lights to scold or blind other drivers, and brandishing or using firearms or other deadly weapons.
The primary difference between road rage and negligent or aggressive driving is that, with road rage, the perpetrator intends to harm someone. Road rage begins with poor mindsets. If you feel that other drivers disrespect you whenever they merge into traffic ahead of you or switch lanes ahead of you, you may be susceptible to road rage. If you feel that bad drivers are all members of a particular community or subset, like “teenagers,” “foreigners,” or “women,” you are susceptible. If you find yourself getting angry every time you drive because, in your opinion, almost everyone in your region drives poorly, be wary of road rage.
In a recent incident of road rage in Florida, two male drivers became angry with each other while driving. One driver followed the other one home. At the house, both drivers exited their vehicles and one shot the other in front of his family. The entire episode was captured on a 911 recording.
According to a AAA Foundation study, almost 9 in 10 drivers believe that aggressive drivers are a “somewhat” or “very serious” threat to their personal safety. However, according to the same survey, a substantial number of drivers have engaged in some aggressive driving tactics like speeding at least 15 mph over the speed limit and running red lights, themselves.
Another study reviewed upwards of 10,000 road rage incidents and determined that they caused 218 murders and 12,610 personal injury matters.
Avoid Being a Victim
- Don’t confront other drivers, block other drivers, or switch lanes when another driver is in your blind spot.
- Remain calm. Forget winning any disagreement.
- Keep in mind that every driver is a potential murderer.
- Avoid all provocations, including rude gestures, rude uses of the horn or lights, or making direct eye contact with other drivers.
- Avoid aggressive driving, including tailgating or lane switching too closely to others.
- Avoid any attempts to “punish” other drivers by, for example, slowing down in your lane to prevent other drivers from driving too fast.
- Limit access to yourself in tight traffic by locking doors and keeping windows partially raised.
- Don’t ever follow someone home.
- Don’t ever get out of your car or approach the other driver.
- If you think someone may be following you, drive to the police.
In 2013, Florida passed an anti-road rage law. According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the “law specifically targets drivers in the left lane of multiple-lane roadways who are going more than 10 mph below the posted speed limit and know or reasonably should know that they are being overtaken by a vehicle going faster. Violators face a $60 fine and a three-point moving violation on their driver’s license.”This doesn’t apply to two-lane roads, which greatly limits it usefulness.
The Florida Highway Patrol spokeswoman Sgt. Kim Montes said that although slow drivers in the left lane do “encourage people to get more frustrated,” speeding is actually more of a hazard than drivers who are going too slowly. Laws regarding road rage are generally difficult to craft because road rage manifests in many different ways.
In the meanwhile, road rage incidents in Florida are quite common. When one woman attempted to pass a slow moving vehicle (25 mph in a 35 mph zone) on Captain Drive in Deltona, Florida, the driver of the slow moving vehicle cursed at her, then threw his vehicle in reverse running over her hood and damaging her windshield.
In another incident, an elderly motorcyclist attempted to make a left turn from a non-turning lane and crashed into a driver who was actually in the turning lane. The unrepentant motorcyclist then threatened to kill the other driver, a teenager, with his knife.
In yet another recent incident in St. Augustine, Florida, a police officer shot a firefighter after a traffic collision. The firefighter survived two gunshot wounds and the officer is facing prosecution.
Don’t let this happen to you. If you see it coming, please get help immediately.