According to road rage statistics from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 80% of drivers express or experience significant anger or aggression at least once in a 30-day period. What’s even more alarming is that more than 1,500 people annually are killed or injured due to aggressive driving.
While it’s normal to be infuriated by another driver on the road, losing your cool can set off a chain of events that could potentially land you behind bars.
Keeping your emotions in check is one thing, but what happens if you’re on the receiving end of another driver’s rage? Is it a criminal offense, and is there anything you can do about it?
Here’s everything you need to know about how to report road rage in Texas.
Texas Road Rage Laws
Is road rage a criminal offense in Texas? To answer this question, here’s what §545.401 of the Texas Transportation Code has to say about reckless driving.
Under this section, it is illegal for a driver to operate a motor vehicle in wanton or willful disregard for the safety of the passengers on board, as well as that of other road users. Any person found flouting this law will be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor punishable by:
- A fine of not more than $200
- Incarceration for a period not exceeding 30 days in a county jail
- Or both
While there is no specific Texas road rage law, drivers can be penalized for reckless driving if they do it in a manner that puts the safety and well-being of other road users at risk.
Road Rage Definition
Aggressive driving and road rage are often used interchangeably. The two terms, however, don’t mean the same thing.
Aggressive driving, as defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is the act of operating a motor vehicle in a way that endangers the safety and well-being of individuals or property.
Traffic violations associated with aggressive driving include:
- Changing lanes recklessly without signal or caution
- Cutting a driver off and then slowing down in front of them
- Following too closely behind a vehicle also known as tailgating
- Improper passing
- Running a red light
- Speeding on a congested road
- Weaving in and out of traffic
On the other hand, the federal agency defines road rage as the use of a vehicle or weapon by the driver or occupant of a vehicle triggered by an incident that happened on a motorway. While Texas law does not have a specific penalty for road rage itself, you can be penalized for reckless driving.
Road rage examples that would fall in this category include:
- Cursing at another driver or using gestures that would be considered rude or obscene
- Forcing a driver off the road
- Ramming into another vehicle
- Sideswiping a vehicle
- Throwing objects at another driver
If an infuriated driver gets out of their vehicle and physically attacks you or uses their car to do so, they can be charged with assault and battery in addition to a reckless driving charge.
How Is Road Rage Prosecuted in Texas
It’s important to state at this point that a driver cannot be charged with aggressive driving or reckless driving if, in fact, it was a case of negligence.
For the state to convict you, they would need to present strong evidence that demonstrates, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you intentionally acted or drove your vehicle in a way that any competent driver would characterize as dangerous. This would involve producing evidence that shows the driver in question was driving at high speeds, had a poor driving record, or failed toxicology tests.
Potential charges stemming from road rage include:
- Aggravated assault
- Aggressive driving
- Assault and battery
- Criminal mischief
- Deadly misconduct
- Discharge of a firearm
- Reckless driving
- Vehicular assault
- Vehicular homicide
The punishment for each of these crimes will vary depending on the severity of the incident in question. Penalties can include anything from civil liabilities, fines, jail time, license revocation, and even life imprisonment for murder charges. The latter is quite common in Texas road rage shooting incidents.
While road rage is not a criminal offense per se, the resulting actions can be. This could have far-reaching repercussions that could significantly impact your relationships, career, reputation, and the outcome of child custody battles.
To mitigate the consequences of a road-rage-related arrest, the best thing to do would be to get in touch with a criminal defense attorney to have the charges dropped entirely, or at the very least, give you the best possible outcome based on the gravity of the situation at hand.
How to Report Road Rage in Texas
If you’re on the receiving end of another driver’s aggression, the best thing to do in such a situation would be to:
- Stay calm and don’t do anything that could escalate the situation
- Focus on your own driving and don’t respond to any form of aggression
- Avoid making eye contact with an angry driver; give them plenty of room instead
- Be tolerant and forgiving
- If you feel threatened or are concerned that your safety is at risk, call 911
You don’t always have to be on the receiving end of another driver’s anger or aggression to do something about it. If you witness a road rage accident or incident, call 911 to report it and provide the dispatcher with as much information as you can with regards to the incident in question.
How to Avoid Road Rage
If you’re prone to losing your cool on the road, learn to take a deep breath and remain calm. If another driver is aggressive toward you, don’t take it personally, and whatever you do, do not retaliate.
Listen to audiobooks or music and give yourself ample time to get to your destination without feeling rushed. This might mean leaving earlier than you normally do. Speeding and tailgating other drivers don’t save you as much time as you think it does.
If you need to seek help from an anger management professional to equip you with the tools and skills required to keep your emotions in check even in heated situations, do it.
In the meantime, check out our blog to learn how to plan a trip to Texas Wine Country. It might be just what you need to calm your nerves.