Road rage is becoming increasingly common along the Chicago motorways as drivers are growing more impatient and aggressive toward other drivers. While horn honking may seem innocent, the driver may be on the verge of causing a motor vehicle crash.
When an angry driver’s actions lead to car accidents and injuries, victims have the right to pursue compensation for damages. The Chicago car accident attorneys at the Curcio Law Offices understand how traumatic an aggressive driving accident can be, and we want to hold the angry driver responsible for their actions.
If you or your loved one were injured in a car accident caused by an aggressive driver, contact Curcio Law Offices by calling 312-321-1111 today.
What is Road Rage?
The term “road rage” was created by the Los Angeles news station KTLA following a series of freeway shootings in the city during the summer of 1987. At the end of the spree, five people were killed, and 11 were injured.
When drivers get angry behind the wheel, they can commit dangerous and violent traffic maneuvers that endanger other drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines road rage as “an assault with a motor vehicle or dangerous weapon by a driver or passenger(s) of one vehicle or precipitated by an incident that happened on a roadway.”
Road rage is extremely dangerous and can put many drivers and passengers at risk. Common examples of road rage are:
- Forcing a driver off the road
- Cursing and yelling at other drivers
- Throwing objects
- Making rude gestures and flipping other motorists off
- Ramming into other vehicles
- Pulling over on the side of the road to threaten or assault other motorists with or without a weapon
According to a report published by the AAA Foundation in 2014, the most common road rage behaviors are yelling, honking, and tailgating, which were a factor in over half of all fatal crashes.
Common Aggressive Driving Behaviors
The American Automobile Association (AAA) defines aggressive driving as “any unsafe driving behaviors that are performed deliberately by the driver with disregard for safety and ill intention.” Road rage is considered an extreme form of aggressive driving.
The most common examples of aggressive driving behaviors are:
- Purposefully cutting off another person
- Brake checking
- Going over the speed limit
- Failure to obey traffic signals
- Illegally changing lanes
- Following too closely
- Not letting cars over
- Using a vehicle’s headlights against oncoming traffic
Road Rage vs. Aggressive Driving
The main difference between road rage and aggressive driving is that an aggressive driver doesn’t want to cause an accident. When aggressive behavior escalates to violent and dangerous actions, the driver is now committing road rage.
When motorists are driving aggressively, they’re typically just irritated or impatient. On the other hand, road rage drivers are angry and wish to cause others harm. In many states, aggressive driving can lead to a traffic offense, while road rage can become a criminal offense depending on the outcome of a car accident.
Risk Factors for Road Rage
Road rage can affect some drivers more than others. For example, males are more likely to be involved in road rage accidents, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Other risk factors that can lead to road rage are:
- Traffic delays
- Running late
- Being a young, inexperienced driver (under 30 years of age)
- Running late for an appointment, work, or other event
- Driving distracted
- Sitting in heavy traffic
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- High-stress levels
- Displaced anger
- Being impatient
- Driving during the holidays
- Anxiety or depression
Can Road Rage Lead to Car Accidents With Other Drivers?
Yes, road rage can lead to car accidents. Since angry motorists are committing many traffic offenses, this reckless behavior can often lead to a road rage accident and serious injuries. In 2021, aggressive driving incidents that involved speeding led to over 12,330 fatalities, as reported by the NHTSA.
Road Rage and Shootings in Illinois
Recently, the Illinois State Police (ISP) have noticed an increase in road rage incidents. In 2022, road rage was a factor in 40% of shootings along the Chicago expressways. As of March 2023, the ISP has handled at least nine shootings caused by road rage. Those numbers don’t include violence associated with angry drivers, like car accidents and physical fights.
Is Road Rage Illegal in Illinois?
Road rage is not illegal in Illinois, but there is a law against reckless driving. In Illinois, statute 625 ILCS 5/11-503 defines reckless driving as:
- When an individual “willfully and wantonly disregard the safety of other people or property while operating their motor vehicle.”
- When a driver uses an incline or railroad crossing to make their vehicle airborne. (This offense is not seen as much as the first, but it’s considered reckless driving under the statute.)
Penalties for Reckless or Aggressive Driving in Illinois
In Illinois, reckless driving is a Class A misdemeanor, resulting in a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Offenders may also be required to perform community service, attend traffic school, and be placed on probation.
When a driver’s reckless behavior causes another severe bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement, the crime is upgraded to aggravated reckless driving and is considered a Class 4 felony. When a driver injures an on-duty crossing guard or child, they are also charged with a Class 4 felony. This offense can result in a maximum prison sentence of up to three years and $25,000 in fines. If the child or crossing guard suffers permanent disability or disfigurement, the driver can be charged with a Class 3 felony. This criminal charge carries a maximum five-year prison sentence and $25,000 in fines.
Can You Sue for Road Rage?
If you or your loved one suffered injuries caused by a road rage accident, you can hold the aggressive driver liable for damages. Like all personal injury claims, you and your Chicago car accident attorney must prove that the other driver’s behavior led to the accident and injuries. Your personal injury attorneys from Curcio Law Offices will work to prove the four elements of negligence to support your injury claim.
- Duty of Care: Motorists owe one another a duty of care by adhering to traffic safety laws and not driving recklessly or negligently.
- Breached Duty of Care: The offending driver violated this duty of care but driving aggressively or recklessly.
- Causation: The aggressive behavior led to a car accident which caused severe injuries and/or death.
- Damages: The accident victim suffered damages due to the motor vehicle crash, and they should be financially compensated.
In addition to pursuing a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver, they will also face criminal charges for violating the reckless driving laws. If the other driver is convicted of reckless driving, it may strengthen your personal injury claim. However, you don’t need a criminal conviction to have a successful accident claim.
Car Accident Damages
The Chicago personal injury attorneys from Curcio Law Offices have helped clients recover the following damages:
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Property damages
- Medical bills, both past and future
- Emotional distress
- Counseling costs
- Loss of consortium
- Physical pain and suffering
- Permanent disability, scarring, and/or disfigurement
- Punitive damages (under certain circumstances)
- Funeral and burial costs if the road rage accident led to your loved one’s wrongful death
How to Handle Road Rage
As the number of aggressive driving accidents increases in Chicago, it’s essential to understand how to handle encounters with aggressive drivers. If you’re noticing aggressive behaviors from another driver, the best thing to do is not to engage. You’ll want to avoid making eye contact, don’t return any obscene gestures, and don’t honk your horn. Engaging with aggressive drivers can lead to violence.
When you’re the driver experiencing anger, it’s important to take a deep breath, and even pull over if you can. With traffic and impatient drivers, it can be easy to get frustrated behind the wheel, but it’s crucial to do whatever you can to avoid causing a road rage incident.
All drivers should be courteous and careful when sharing the road with others. Avoid changing lanes suddenly, cutting motorists off, running red lights, and tailgating other motor vehicles.
Call a Chicago Car Accident Lawyer at Curcio Law Offices Today
If you’ve been involved in a car accident caused by an angry driver, the personal injury attorneys at the Curcio Law Offices are here to help. Your legal team will work to recover damages from your accident, like medical bills and lost wages. To schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced car accident attorneys, call 312-321-1111 today.