As seasonal temperatures rise, normally-even tempers sometimes flare. If anger gets the better of a driver, it can turn to road rage in an instant and that can result in injury or death.
In just the last two months, media reports of road rage span coast-to-coast. Washington State is no exception. Even law enforcement officers are not immune to losing their cool behind the wheel.
Recent news reports include:
- A Virginia man who bit a woman's finger. The victim and her son were driving when a man pulled up, shouted at her and threw something at her car. When she stopped, the man pulled open the door and bit the woman before getting back in his car and driving away.
- Police used cell phone signals to track down two Mississippi men after they shot another driver in the head. The driver survived the shooting; the suspects were found in a parking lot 160 miles away.
- A man described as a habitual traffic offender was arrested for running over a man and woman on a motorcycle in Florida after “choice words” were exchanged. Another motorist captured the incident on cell phone video. The bikers were not seriously injured.
- A Washington, D.C., police officer was charged in an off-duty road rage incident after he pointed his department-issued gun at another driver.
- In Auburn, WA, earlier this month, a man fired multiple shots into another car, injuring a passenger, before fleeing.
According to the Washington State Patrol, road rage is described as "an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of one motor vehicle on the operator or passenger(s) of another motor vehicle caused by an incident that occurred on a roadway.” Whereas aggressive driving is “"the commission of two or more moving violations that is likely to endanger other persons or property, or any single intentional violation that requires a defensive reaction of another driver."
Aggressive driving, according to the State Patrol, includes:
- Following too close.
- Weaving in and out of traffic.
- Speeding up to beat a traffic light.
- Cutting between vehicles to change lanes.
- Using the horn excessively.
- Flashing headlights excessively at oncoming traffic.
- Braking to get others to back off your bumper.
- Passing another driver, then slowing to teach them a lesson.
Washington does not have an aggressive driving law, however motorists can be charged with reckless driving. Though it is a misdemeanor, the penalty can be severe. According to the Revised Code of Washington (RCW 46.61.500): “Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.”
Reckless driving is a gross misdemeanor in Washington State, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. If an angry driver causes injury or death, the punishments can increase to years prisons and thousands more in court fees and fines.
Any driver arrested for reckless driving has the right to a quality legal defense. If you have been arrested in Washington State, call St. Clair Law Offices at (206) 578-2200 or contact her online.