Driving can be frustrating. If you are trapped in gridlock on the Baltimore Beltway, I-95, or another of Maryland’s congested roads, you may start to feel impatient and even angry. A combination of congestion, bad driving, hot weather, and being behind slow drivers can cause in road rage. Often road rage accidents in Maryland are triggered by minor infractions.
Unfortunately, these situations often escalate quickly. They can end in serious and fatal accidents, shootings, and other forms of violence.
Victims of road rage often suffer terrible ordeals. They may end up injured, intimidated, and frightened for their lives. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a road rage incident in Maryland, you should contact an experienced Baltimore car accident lawyer as soon as possible to find out your rights and to take action against the aggressor.
What is Road Rage in Maryland?
The term “road rage” is a legally imprecise one. Although there is no specific criminal charge of road rage, it can lead to charges such as assault and reckless endangerment. The term is used to describe angry, aggressive and deliberately dangerous driving. Road rage can be as minor as giving a rude hand signal or as serious as deliberately causing an accident, running a vehicle off the road, or shooting, punching, or stabbing another driver.
Road rage incidents typically occur on the spur of the moment and the drivers involved do not know each other. We often read of serious incidents in and around Baltimore. In September 2018, for example, a woman was seriously injured in a road rage incident on The Beltway.
The Baltimore Sun reported the incident occurred on the inner loop of Interstate 695 near the Harford Road exit. The drivers of two vehicles — a white van and a Nissan — were arguing, when a 2018 Subaru Outback, attempted to pass them.
Police said an occupant of the Nissan fired a single shot at the Subaru that hit the 58-year-old driver of the Subaru, causing serious injuries.
Although these road rage incidents make headlines, road rage is more likely to be aggressive driving than shootings or stabbings. It can include the following types of behavior:
- Cutting off other drivers;
- Deliberately driving too slow and braking suddenly;
- Suddenly accelerating;
- Racing a car in the next lane;
- Disputes over parking spaces;
- Making offensive gestures:
- Excessive use of horns, lights or other signals;
- Shouting, or raising fists;
- Running another car off the highway or intentionally causing a crash;
The most serious cases of road rage involve an intent to harm another driver or drivers. However, most road rage accidents are unintentional crashes caused by reckless and aggressive driving.
How Common is Road Rage?
Road rage occurs considerably more often than many of us believe. A recent study by the AAA Foundation found almost 80 percent of drivers expressed significant anger, road rage, or aggression behind the wheel at least once in a 12-month period. About eight million U.S. drivers committed extreme examples of road rage like deliberately ramming another vehicle or getting out of their car to confront another motorist.
Drivers living in the northeast were more likely to yell and honk angrily at other motorists. The research found male and younger drivers aged 19-39 were significantly more likely to become aggressive behind the wheel. Men were more than three times more likely than female drivers to have confronted another driver or rammed another vehicle deliberately.
The research found as many as half of all delivers reported being on the receiving end of road rage. Although very few of these incidents ended up in injury, the experience shook up many of the victims of road rage. Intentionally tailgating and yelling at another driver are the most common forms of road rage, the research revealed.
The AAA study was conducted in 2014. Nearly two out of three drivers surveyed believed that road rage was a more serious problem than three years earlier while 9 out of 10 drivers were concerned that aggressive drivers posed a serious threat to their personal safety.
Although many motorists have been victims of road rage, there is a lack of research into this problem. According to the findings of a telephone survey of 1,395 individuals in Canada, 31.7 percent reported shouting or cursing at another driver and 2.1 percent reported threatening to hurt another driver or damage a vehicle.
How Common Are Road Rage Accidents in Maryland?
According to Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration, aggressive driving caused 3,331 crashes in 2015. Of these, 1,272 involved injuries. Crashes involving aggressive drivers are more likely to cause deaths or serious injuries.
Although aggressive driving may reach road rage levels, there is a difference in the definitions. The state defines aggressive driving as when a motorist “commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.” This behavior does not necessarily constitute road rage. However, this type of driving is often deadly on the highways of Maryland.
Overall, crashes resulting in injury or death accounted for about 32 percent of the total crashes in Maryland. However, among crashes linked to aggressive drivers, 41 percent resulted in injuries or deaths, amounting to about 3,200 injuries and fatalities every year.
Where are Aggressive Driving Incidents Most Likely to Take Place in Maryland?
Road rage and aggressive driving incidents are more likely to occur in built-up areas. The MVA states, 83 percent of all aggressive driving crashes are reported in the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas. Baltimore County accounted for almost one in five (19 percent) of all of Maryland’s aggressive driving crashes. Prince George’s County accounted for 12 percent of all the state’s fatal crashes related to aggressive driving.
What Causes Road Rage in Maryland?
There are many triggers for road rage but congested highways are major contributors. Barry Markell, a psychotherapist in Park Ridge, Ill., who treated many perpetrators and victims of road rage, told WebMD the following:
“You know those studies of overcrowding in rats? Well, rats are usually OK until there is one rat too many in an enclosed space and then they all turn on each other. There are far more people on the road than ever before. Crowding causes aggression.”
People may experience similar levels of irritation and anger in a crowded store but they are not traveling around at 50 mph in a car that can become a lethal weapon in the hands of a road rage perpetrator. Traffic levels on Maryland’s roads have doubled in two decades, states the MVA.
Markell said drivers who commit acts of road rage cease to see their victims as other human beings. They objectify them and stop seeing them as people with families like themselves.
People who commit acts of road rage may have contributing factors such as alcohol or drug abuse or an abusive home life. The actions of a slow driver in the left lane of the interstate or a driver who fails to move at a green light may push them over the edge.
Factors like extreme heat and the added pressures of getting places on congested roads over holidays can also contribute to road rage in Maryland.
Markell said people who are prone to lose their tempers on the highway should take the following steps:
- Make sure to get enough sleep. People who suffer sleep deficit are likely to be more angry and irritable.
- Leave earlier for your destination. Being late for work, school or another appointment can cause anxiety and impatience.
- Limit alcohol consumption – Alcohol can impair driving and lead to road rage even if you were drinking the night before. Driving with a hangover can make motorists bad-tempered.
- Play soothing music in your car. It may help your mood.
- Be acutely aware of how you are driving. People with road rage often lose perspective and fail to see the bigger picture. Think about how your driving impacts others on the highway.
How to Deal With Road Rage Accidents in Maryland
In many cases, road rage accidents are preceded by aggressive behavior. If a driver is screaming out of a window, honking his or her horn, speeding up behind you or making rude hand gestures, attempt to diffuse the situation by pulling over into a slower lane and letting the driver pass. Avoid making eye contact.
If a driver is particularly aggressive, pull over if it is safe to do so and call the police. Do not return rude gestures or become angry. The situation may quickly escalate. In some situations, an agitated driver will refuse to back down when you are non-confrontational.
If you are involved in a road rage accident in Maryland, call the police as soon as possible. Avoid confronting an angry driver. Remain calm. If the driver approaches you and confronts you, adopt a conciliatory manner and keep the conversation to a minimum before the police arrive.
As with other motor vehicle accidents in Maryland, you should write down everything that comes to mind about the cause of the accident as soon as possible. Document the angry driver’s behavior while the memory is still fresh. If possible, take pictures and video of the accident scene once an officer has arrived and record any witness statements. Try to get an aggressive driver’s tag number and a good description of the vehicle. The road rage driver may leave the scene of an accident and be difficult to trace.
Contact an Injury Lawyer over Road Rage Accidents in Maryland
If you have been the victim of road rage or any form of aggressive driving, it’s important to talk to a Maryland car accident injury lawyer as soon as possible.
If you were hurt by the intentional act of another driver, the insurance company may oppose your claim under the “intentional act” clause in an insurance policy. However, a victim will likely still have coverage under his or her own policy, such as Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Uninsured/Under-Insured motorist coverage (UM/UIM).
An insurance company will likely deny coverage for the road rage driver due to the fact that he or she acted intentionally in causing the injury. The at-fault driver becomes akin to an uninsured motorist. Therefore, you can make a claim under the UM part of your own insurance policy.
This is a complicated area of the law. It makes sense to talk to an attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights. Call the Law Offices of Randolph Rice today for a free consultation at (410) 694-7291.