But is road rage a criminal offense in California?
While road rage is not a specific criminal offense, actions triggered by road rage, such as violent behavior, may qualify as misdemeanors or felonies.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Road Rage?
- Criminal Charges Related To Road Rage
- Potential Penalties For Road Rage In California
- Preventing Road Rage Accidents
- Can I Sue If I’m A Victim Of Road Rage?
- Contact A California Car Accident Attorney Today
What Is Road Rage?
Merriam-Webster defines road rage as “a motorist’s uncontrolled anger that is usually provoked by another motorist’s irritating act and is expressed in aggressive or violent behavior.”
There is a difference between road rage and aggressive driving. Road rage incidents consist of willful or wanton disregard for other drivers’ safety. It’s often caused by the behavior of another driver. For example, after another driver cuts you off, you may try to cut them off in retaliation..
That said, aggressive driving is not always triggered by the actions of another driver.
Examples of aggressive driving include violations of the California vehicle code such as speeding or tailgating.
Impatience is a common cause of aggressive driving. It is common for an aggressive driver to become eager and angry, and for this to become road rage. This could result in a driver swearing at other drivers, throwing items, or yelling. These are all examples of road rage.
If you’re driving and notice a driver behaving in this fashion, don’t engage. Don’t encourage road rage behaviors by feeding into someone’s anger. Doing so could put you or others in danger.
The dangers of road rage include:
Road rage can turn into arguments since people are often already stressed while driving. They’re attempting to reach their destination as soon as possible, and they get mad when someone is in their way.
Furthermore, people are likely to lash out while driving since they feel anonymous. It’s easy to feel like they aren’t accountable for their actions.
When a driver gets angry, they’re more likely to drive carelessly. They might run red lights, weave through traffic or speed. This increases the odds of an accident. Such an accident can result in a driver’s license suspension, serious bodily injury or even death.
If you get into an accident caused by your road rage, you might be liable for damages, and face legal fees and increased insurance premiums.
Criminal Charges Related To Road Rage
Again, road rage itself is not a specific crime in California. However, road rage can cause drivers to engage in behaviors which are considered criminal acts. It’s important to keep your cool while driving because if you find yourself engaging in certain acts because of road rage, you could find yourself quickly needing a criminal defense attorney.
Criminal charges related to road rage include:
California Vehicle Code 23103(a) states that “a person who drives a vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.”
A court will look at elements like tailgating, swerving, speeding and more to determine if a driver was driving recklessly. These are all behaviors which road rage can trigger.
Drivers convicted of reckless driving may face as many as 90 days in jail, in addition to fines of up to $1,000. These penalties can be increased when reckless driving leads to someone else experiencing bodily injury.
California Penal Code 240 states that “an assault is an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.”
Assault is one action which is commonly seen triggered by road rage.
Assault is a misdemeanor in California. Those convicted of assault could face as long as six months in jail and as much as $1,000 in fines.
California Penal Code 242 states that “a battery is any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.”
Road rage can lead to battery charges when it causes a driver hitting someone else or using force against another.
Those convicted of battery could face as long as six months in jail, as well as fines of up to $2,000.
Battery which leads to serious bodily injury has penalties which are more severe.
California courts have ruled that verbal threats may be considered assault if they are threatening enough to put reasonable people in fear of imminently suffering physical harm.
It is common from those experiencing road rage to threaten harm to others.
Potential Penalties For Road Rage In California
Those who perpetrate road rage in California may face potential penalties, depending on the actions they take while road raging. These penalties include:
Driver’s License Suspension
California Vehicle Code 13210 states that “the court may order the suspension of the driving privilege of any operator of a motor vehicle who commits… an assault commonly known as “road rage.” The vehicle code states that those commit road rage shall see their license suspended for “six months for a first offense and one year for a second or subsequent offense.”
The suspension begins either on your conviction date or upon being released from prison. You might also be required by a court to complete an anger management or road rage course.
A license suspension like this can affect the ability you have to complete a routine task like securing a job opportunity or attending school.
Those who face road rage convictions may see community service be part of their summary probation. As an example, a judge could have the discretion to classify assault with a deadly weapon as a misdemeanor or a felony according to California Penal Code 17(b).
If you face a misdemeanor conviction, a court might order you to go through community service – this would be part of your probation.
Your community service would involve completing your community service hours under supervision. It would be through a Community Service Referral Agency which would be approved by the court.
You could end up with a huge financial burden if you face fines regarding a conviction which is related to road rage.
Charges involving aggressive driving could result in a fine anywhere from $145 to as much as $1,000. A conviction for assault could result in a $1,000 fine, and a conviction for battery could result in a $2,000 fine.
Assault with a deadly weapon convictions can result in $10,000 fines.
Road rage convictions can lead to sentences of state or county imprisonment. Aggressive driving convictions can lead to as much as 90 days of county jail imprisonment. Assault convictions can lead to as much as six months of county jail imprisonment.
Convictions of assault with a deadly weapon, like road rage shootings, can lead to county jail imprisonments of up to one year, or state prison imprisonments of up to four years in prison. Battery convictions can lead to six months of imprisonment in county prison.
Battery which leads to serious bodily injury can lead to up to four years of imprisonment in county jail according to California Penal Code Section 1170(h).
Preventing Road Rage Accidents
You should simply slow down and let any aggressive drivers pass you. They’ll usually simply pass you and that will be that.
Avoid erratic braking, leaving your high beams on, weaving, speeding, cutting off other drivers or tailgating. Err towards driving courteously and always merge politely. Driving in this fashion isn’t just smart for avoiding road rage, but it will reduce your risk of accidents and make driving more pleasant and easier for everyone on the road.
Avoid Aggressive Drivers
When you notice aggressive drivers, you should get some distance away from them, whether it be by slowing down and letting them pass or changing lanes in order to not be next to them.
Don’t Make Rude Gestures At Other Drivers
You are not the cops. It isn’t your job to tell others how they should drive, even when they’re driving terribly. You shouldn’t make eye contact with any aggressive drivers who try to pick fights.
Call 911 If You Think You’re In Danger
If you are attacked by an aggressive driver, you should immediately call 911 and. You should consider driving to a public location that has witnesses, or to the closest police station. You should not drive home.
Can I Sue If I’m A Victim Of Road Rage?
If you’ve been injured as a result of a road rage incident, you may be able to recover financial compensation for your injuries by filing a lawsuit in civil court.
Examples of road rage incidents which you may be able to sue over include being crashed into because of road rage, or being assaulted as a result of road rage.
Contact A California Car Accident Attorney Today
If you or a loved one have been injured or killed due to a road rage incident, the experienced California car accident attorneys at Nadrich & Cohen can help you recover financial compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering, property damage, wrongful death and more.
We’ve been helping Californians recover compensation for injuries since 1990 and have recovered over $400,000,000 for our clients. We don’t charge injury victims any fee until and unless we obtain compensation for them. If you can’t afford to have your road rage injuries treated, we can get you to doctors who won’t charge you for treatment until your case is over.
Call us today for a free consultation if you or a loved one was injured or killed in a road rage incident. You may qualify for financial compensation.