Just this month, two adults and two children were shot in a road rage incident in Westminster. One of the children was pronounced dead at the scene.
The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 94 percent of car accidents are caused by operator error, and that a third of those can be linked to aggressive driving and road rage.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that nearly 80 percent of drivers have experienced significant aggression or road rage over the course of a year. Last year alone, authorities in Colorado received over 87,000 calls related to aggressive driving.
Is there a difference between road rage and aggressive driving? And how can you prevent yourself from becoming a victim?
NHTSA defines aggressive driving as, “The operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property.” Aggressive behavior behind the wheel can include:
- Making angry gestures
- Cutting off a vehicle
- Preventing a vehicle from changing lanes
- Passing on the shoulder
All of these behaviors are dangerous and can easily lead to an accident. In Colorado, aggressive driving is typically covered by the reckless driving statute, where the driver displays a “wanton or willful disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
Road rage occurs when a driver knowingly and purposefully harms an individual, and it can often stem from aggressive driving. Many times, it involves a minor traffic accident.
Often a firearm is involved, as in the Westminster case above. The mother and son stepped out of the car and were shot by the other driver. That driver is in jail facing first-degree murder charges.
Other incidents involve stabbings. Earlier this month three men were stabbed in Colorado Springs during a road rage incident. And just last month, a man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for attempted murder after stabbing another driver after a minor traffic incident in Greeley.
As you can see, road rage is not a traffic offense – it is a criminal offense.
Don’t become a victim
You will more than likely experience aggressive driving – and possibly road rage – at some point in your life. What can you do to de-escalate the situation?
First of all, never engage with the aggressive driver. You might be surprised – almost 50 percent of drivers admit to making rude gestures and shouting back at the aggressive driver.
Here are some things that you should do:
- Switch lanes
- Drive to a nearby police station
- Pull into a busy parking lot
- Call 911
- Stay in your car
- Keep your windows rolled up
The Colorado State Patrol has a program to report aggressive drivers in real time – just dial *277 on your cell phone.
What to do if you are a victim
If you have been injured in a car accident caused by aggressive driving or road rage, you will want to file an insurance claim and possibly take legal action against the aggressive driver.