If you drive routinely on the freeways here in Orange County or in fact throughout California, you might have noticed an increase in aggressive driving. Increased congestion, running late, and anger are all contributing factors to the most aggressive driving that we’ve seen on the increase. The big problem is at what point does aggressive driving turn to road rage and thus become a risk factor for personal injury accidents, or in some cases, homicide.
Last weekend a road rage incident in Stanton ended in a serious stabbing for one man. The victim was rushed to UCI Medical Center and underwent surgery and is expected to survive. It is being investigated as a road rage incident unless other witnesses come forward to prove otherwise. Since the incident involved two ethnic groups it may be classified as a hate crime.
The freeways running throughout Los Angeles/Orange Counties have the reputation for having the fourth aggressive drivers, next to Miami, New York and Boston in the nation. Statistically, young men, 18-24, are more prone to road rage and they typically drive more than other age and gender groups.
Road rage is a two way street, though, and if you don’t respond, chances are nothing will happen. However, according to a national survey, over one half of all drivers who experienced these aggressive drivers do react and then that escalates the situation. Horn honking, yelling, obscene gestures, maybe they will make you feel better but it won’t solve the problem. In fact, in some cases, it can make things worse if the other party has access to weapons and wants to do you harm.
Road and Travel Magazine have some great tips on avoiding aggressive driving and road rage incidences:
Attitude: Stay calm and focused while driving; it is not a competitive sport.
Smarts: Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into a confrontation.
Courtesy Try to be a courteous driver, remember you are not perfect.
Turn Signal: Remember that 57% of people do not use their signals properly!
Changing Lanes: Make sure you have plenty of merging room and don’t cut off other drivers.
Keeping up with the Pace: Try to stay with the flow of traffic or move to the far right, slower lane Tailgating: always keep a safe distance while driving; one car length for every 10 miles per hour driving.
Gestures: Never make obscene gestures Distance: If a driver is showing abnormal aggressive behavior, keep your distance.
Get Help: If you feel seriously threatened, either call 9-1-1 with your cell phone or drive to the nearest police station. Never drive home or stop on the side of the road!
Apologize: If you make a mistake, try to apologize with the appropriate gesture.
In California the Aggressive Driving Laws are quite clear. Using your car in an aggressive way that commits a crime is considered a criminal assault and you can be penalized with a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 4 years in jail. Be polite and do not respond to someone that starts an incident.
James Ballidis is the managing partner of Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie, a personal injury and auto accident law firm in Southern California.