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The difference between road rage and aggressive driving

At certain times of the day, you may see traffic backing up on freeways or other highways leading to and from business districts, popular shopping areas or military bases.

In tense, slow situations, drivers often become impatient. Some exhibit aggressive driving behavior, while others are guilty of road rage.

Understanding the difference

The Los Angeles, California, news station, KTLA, coined the phrase “road rage,” a term broadcasters applied to a series of shooting incidents that were occurring on local freeways. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration explains road rage as an “assault with a motor vehicle” that endangers other people. It is a criminal offense.

Aggressive drivers also put lives in danger, but not in a violent, purposeful manner. Aggressive driving involves committing more than one traffic offense without regard for others' safety. These offenses may result in traffic tickets, but not criminal penalties.

Caught in the middle

NHTSA statistics indicate that aggressive driving results in 66 percent of all traffic fatalities, and that young men who are 19 or younger are the most likely drivers to become involved in road rage incidents. One driver may explode in road rage if angered by another who is switching lanes repeatedly without signaling, driving slowly or clearly distracted in some way. You may be the unintended victim of road rage if you are merely in the way of the overly aggressive driver and surrounded by traffic with no escape route.

Acting without regard for others

Aggressive drivers do not care about other drivers, motorcyclists or pedestrians. However, if road rage takes over, the driver may run a red light, ignore hazardous weather conditions, exceed the posted speed limit and disregard traffic laws in general. If an angry driver targets you, he or she may tailgate you, bump your vehicle or even force you off the road, then speed on by.

Accident injuries

If you sustain an injury in an incident with an aggressive driver, especially one who exhibits road rage, your legal team will launch an investigation to determine exactly what happened. Any information you can provide will also help them locate the at-fault driver who may face negligence or criminal charges in causing your injuries. 

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