What is the Difference Between Aggressive Driving and Road Rage?

Smith Law Center
Last Updated:
May 21, 2024
A man exemplifies the concepts of aggressive driving vs. road rage by intensely honking his car horn, an action that can be attributed to either offense.

On the Road: Recognizing Aggressive Driving vs. Road Rage

In the chaos of millions of people hitting the road daily, you are bound to encounter angry drivers. Many people tend to use the terms aggressive driving and road rage interchangeably when referring to intense moments behind the wheel. However, aggressive driving vs. road rage differs significantly regarding their legal implications, intent, actions, and severity.

When trying to answer the question, what is the difference between aggressive driving and road rage, it mainly boils down to the idea that one is a traffic offense while the other is a criminal offense. 

While aggressive driving can turn into road rage, it’s important to know what separates the two, as these can factor into a car accident claim. If you were injured in an incident involving aggressive driving or road rage, a car accident lawyer can aid you in rebuilding your life and pursuing the compensation you deserve.  

At The Smith Law Center, we have a longstanding history of successfully helping individuals through car accident claims. When you’re ready to start your journey towards justice, contact us online or call (757) 244-7000

Difference Between Aggressive Driving and Road Rage

At first glance, the phrases aggressive driving and road rage may appear very similar. However, while aggressive driving pertains to traffic offenses limited to the roadway, road rage involves a willful disregard for the driver’s safety. 

Although aggressive driving may escalate into road rage, road rage does not happen in every case of aggressive driving. Nevertheless, while aggressive driving is not considered a criminal offense, it is still not an excusable behavior on the road. 

Aggressive Driving Definition 

With the frustrations of traffic jams, long commutes, or the blare of car horns, a driver has likely engaged in aggressive driving at one point or another. However, this does not mean aggressive driving is ever an acceptable response. 

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as a combination of moving traffic offenses that endanger other persons or property. Therefore, aggressive driving is a concept that remains loosely defined. 

However, the NHTSA has outlined several violations that count as aggressive driving, including: 

  • Following other vehicles too closely.
  • Making unsafe or sudden lane changes.
  • Running red lights.
  • Driving much faster than specified speeds. 
  • Excessive honking. 
  • Blocking lanes. 
  • Brake checking other drivers. 
  • Cutting off other drivers. 
  • Weaving dangerously in and out of traffic. 
  • Flashing your high beams at other drivers. 
  • Making obscene gestures at other drivers. 

Aggressive driving is a ticketable offense and, according to the National Safety Council, plays a role in roughly 50% of car crashes. While many drivers act in a manner that could fit under the definition of aggressive driving, it is never wise to respond aggressively if you are on the receiving end.  

An aggressive driver may resort to road rage in some situations, a far more dangerous and possibly deadly offense. 

Definition Road Rage 

While aggressive driving is labeled a traffic offense, road rage is an intentional assault by a driver or other passenger using a motor vehicle or another weapon. Road rage is typically characterized by an explosive fit of anger where the driver snaps and begins acting violently.  

Some behaviors in road rage will overlap with those defined as aggressive driving. However, the difference lies in the driver’s intention to cause harm or instill fear in their target. A driver engaging in road rage may try to: 

  • Follow a driver to their destination or home.
  • Purposefully ram or bump into another driver. 
  • Attempt to use a weapon, such as a firearm. 
  • Throw objects at another vehicle. 
  • Force another driver off the road. 

Sadly, safemotorist.com reported 218 murders and 12,610 injuries attributed to road rage from data compiled by the NHTSA and AutoVantage auto club. 

Aggressive driving and road rage are unfortunately on the rise in the United States. 

If you were the victim of another motorist’s dangerous behavior, the experienced attorneys at The Smith Law Center can help you recover compensation for injuries, emotional distress, and vehicle damage. Get in touch with us online or call (757) 244-7000 to learn more.

Are Aggressive Driving and Road Rage Cases Increasing?

If you have noticed an uptick in the number of aggressive drivers on the road, you’re not the only one. Several states have witnessed an increase in aggressive driving and road rage incidents. For example, the number of people killed or injured in road rage shootings has more than doubled from 2018 to 2022, according to Psychology Today

Furthermore, a 2019 poll by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that nearly 80% of drivers admitted to experiencing significant anger, aggression, or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the past 30 days. 

Some professionals speculate this climb could be due to cars lending a shield of anonymity, while others point to the internet contributing to a lack of empathy in drivers. Whatever the reason may be, aggressive driving and road rage are never the right answers. 

How Does Aggressive Driving vs. Road Rage Affect My Claim?

A car accident, under any circumstances, is a distressing situation. However, if your accident was a result of aggressive driving or road rage, this could equip your attorney with more evidence to demonstrate the other driver was at fault. 

By highlighting the driver’s gross negligence or intentional wrongdoing, your attorney may recover compensation for emotional distress, mental anguish, and even punitive damages to punish the at-fault driver. 

Contact The Smith Law Center for Unparalleled Legal Representation 

Recovering from a car accident is challenging, but enlisting the help of an experienced attorney is a significant step in securing justice. With decades of experience supporting car crash victims, we have achieved impressive outcomes for clients injured in car accidents, like a $7.5 million jury verdict for one woman's crash injuries.

If you were impacted by aggressive driving or road rage, contact our team of car accident attorneys online or call (757) 244-7000

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