The number of road rage incidents involving firearms more than doubled from 2014 to 2017 and has continued to increase since then. In the meantime, some states—including Texas, Wyoming, and Idaho—have enacted “constitutional carry” laws that allow state residents to carry handguns in public without being trained or licensed.
Some advocates are concerned that these laws will only heighten the stakes of road rage altercations by increasing the odds that at least one driver is armed. Below, we’ll discuss some signs of road rage, options for those who have been seriously injured as a result of road rage, and how state gun laws can affect road rage lawsuits.
Road Rage Signs and Statistics
Road rage can be more common than you might think. A recent AAA survey yielded some surprising results.
- Nearly 8 in 10 drivers admitted they had committed at least one aggressive driving behavior in the past year.
- Each year, road rage injures about 1,800 people and causes an average of 30 deaths.
- From 2006 to 2015, there was a 500 percent increase in the rate of aggressive-driving fatalities.
- Males are more likely to show signs of road rage than females, though males and females tend to tailgate at about the same rate.
- Drivers between ages 25 and 39 are the most likely to show signs of road rage, followed closely by drivers between ages 19 and 24.
- About 60 percent of drivers said they’d felt threatened by unsafe driving recently.
For this survey, “aggressive driving behaviors” included honking, tailgating, brake-checking, yelling or gesturing, and blocking another driver.
Engaging in aggressive driving behaviors isn’t always the same thing as road rage. Some of these behaviors, like tailgating, could be inadvertent; if the driver realizes they’re doing this and slows down to allow more distance between the vehicles, the situation won’t rise to what is commonly thought of as road rage. However, if two drivers engage with each other—or if the aggressor pursues the other driver even after that driver has tried to end the interaction—this may qualify as road rage.
Avoiding Road Rage
Though it’s not always possible to avoid the wrath of an unhinged driver, there are a few steps you can take to reduce the risk of being involved in a road rage incident or accident.
Don’t Speed or Drive While Distracted
Not only can speeding put you at risk of getting a ticket or being involved in a crash, but it may also cause you to appear to be driving aggressively. And driving while obviously distracted—whether putting on makeup or texting while driving—can draw the ire of other drivers who might attempt to engage you.
Be Courteous to Other Vehicles
Inadvertently cutting someone off, tailgating them, or otherwise engaging in discourteous behaviors can make drivers angry. Take care to follow the rules of the road and be courteous to other drivers. If you notice that another driver is being aggressive, avoid eye contact and provide them with more space. It’s almost always better to let an aggressive driver pass and get far ahead of you than to try to slow them down. Don’t return angry hand gestures or obscenities, as this will only escalate the situation.
Call 911 When Necessary
If you’re concerned that another driver is putting you or others in danger, don’t hesitate to call 911 to report the driver. You should also call 911 whenever you see a firearm—whether it’s being pointed at you, another car, or simply brandished as a way to intimidate others. If an angry driver is following you to your destination, try to find a police or fire station to park at instead. If the driver does follow you there, you’ll be able to call for help. It can be dangerous to lead a potentially dangerous driver to your home.
How Gun Laws May Impact a Road Rage Lawsuit
Some research has indicated a connection between gun ownership and being prone to “angry, impulsive” behavior. This may mean that those who are more likely to engage in aggressive driving or respond to other drivers’ actions with direct confrontation may also be more likely to be carrying a gun. Though someone who injures another driver with a gun—or engages in a road-rage crime while armed—may be subject to some stiff criminal penalties, this can be cold comfort to the person who was injured.
However, road rage accidents can lead to a personal injury lawsuit just like other types of auto accident claims. And in many respects, road rage lawsuits are indistinguishable from other auto-related lawsuits. To recover damages from the at-fault party or their auto insurance company, you’ll need to prove three things:
- The other driver owed you a duty of reasonable care (i.e. the duty all drivers owe to other drivers on the road);
- The driver engaged in actions or behaviors that breached this duty; and
- This breach resulted in physical or mental injury, damaged property, and/or caused other financial losses.
If the at-fault driver was armed at the time of the accident or incident, this can be strong evidence supporting your argument that the driver breached their duty of care by engaging in negligent or reckless behavior. In other words, it can be easier to prove a personal injury claim against a driver who engaged in aggressive behaviors than a driver who was simply distracted and collided with your vehicle.
Some of the damages you may be able to recover if you can prove each of the three necessary elements include:
- Medical bills
- Future medical expenses
- Physical therapy costs
- Psychotherapy costs
- Lost wages
- Loss of any future earnings
- Property damage to your vehicle or any property inside
- Punitive or emotional distress damages
Passengers in your vehicle may also be able to recover their own financial damages if they were injured or emotionally harmed as a result of the incident. And if you’re married, your spouse may be able to pursue a loss of consortium claim as a result of the injuries you sustained.