You might want to be careful when driving the streets and highways in Tampa to avoid an accident caused by aggressive driving. According to published reports, Tampa-St. Petersburg is one of three areas in Florida, making it onto the list of the top 20 places in the country with the most aggressive drivers. Orlando and Miami-Fort Lauderdale are the other cities in the Sunshine State, making the aggressive driving list.

You may hear people using the terms “aggressive driving” and “road rage” interchangeably, but an important distinction exists. Both of them put pedestrians and other drivers at risk of suffering serious injuries. The difference is that aggressive drivers do not intentionally target a specific victim as would a driver committing road rage. Understanding each form of behavior may help you to avoid becoming a victim of aggressive driving or road rage while giving you the information needed to pursue a claim for compensation in case of an accident.

What does aggressive driving and road rage mean?

Aggressive driving and road rage may look the same and cause the same amount of harm, but Florida officials use different definitions for each. A motorist can be considered an aggressive driver by doing two or more of the following: 

  • Unsafe lane changes
  • Improper lane changes 
  • Excessive speed
  • Fail to yield the right of way 
  • Failure to obey stop signs, traffic signals or other traffic control devices
  • Follow too close to other vehicles 
  • General disregard for the rules of the road and traffic laws 

As a general rule, aggressive drivers do not direct their dangerous behavior at a particular driver or pedestrian. Instead, an ordinarily good driver may abruptly change lanes without signaling or ride dangerously close to another vehicle. Frustration from sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic in downtown Tampa may cause erratic behavior. Parents driving their children to school may resort to speeding and running through stop signs if they are running late.

Signs of drivers engaging in road rage

Road rage may start as aggressive driving behaviors that escalate into conduct directed at a specific motorist. Signs of drivers engaging in road rage include: 

  • Using their vehicles to strike another vehicle or person
  • Shouting obscenities or making obscene gestures at another driver 
  • Throwing objects at another person or vehicle
  • Using a weapon or threatening the use of a firearm against another driver
  • Acts or threats of violence directed at another person 

While aggressive driving may be a violation of Florida traffic laws resulting in a police officer issuing a traffic ticket to the offending motorist, road rage incidents frequently lead to arrests and criminal charges filed against the offender.

Acts of violence are common in road rage incidents. For example, sheriff’s deputies in Hillsborough County arrested a man for cutting off another vehicle and smashing its window because he believed the driver was texting while driving. In another road rage incident, a woman trying to pay at a tollbooth had her vehicle rammed several times by another motorist who became upset at how long it was taking. 

Accidents caused by aggressive driving and road rage

The dangers posed by road rage and aggressive driving are evident in alarming statistics. Aggressive driving behavior is responsible for 66% of fatal collisions in the U.S. One report shows road rage as the cause of 218 murders and more than 12,618 injuries during a seven-year period.

Avoiding road rage and aggressive driving accidents

Controlling your driving behavior to avoid aggressive driving and knowing how to react when other drivers exhibit signs of road rage or aggressive driving may help prevent accidents. Some of the things you can do to avoid being an aggressive driver include:

  • Obey traffic laws and the rules of the road. 
  • Plan trips to avoid being on the road during peak traffic periods. 
  • Leave sufficient time to arrive safely at your destination without needing to rush. 
  • Do not flash your high beams at slower drivers. 
  • Avoid using your car’s horn to signal frustration at other drivers. 
  • Avoid tailgating and abrupt, unsafe lane changes. 
  • Remain calm when behind the wheel. 

What to do when targeted by road rage or aggressive driving?

You might become the target of aggressive driving or road rage by another motorist. The following may help to avoid an accident or escalate the situation:

  • Remain calm and do not respond to aggressive behavior. 
  • Avoid making gestures or direct eye contact with aggressive motorists. 
  • If safe to do so, change lanes to allow an aggressive driver to pass. 
  • Drive to a police station or other safe location if you feel threatened by the actions of another motorist. 
  • If approached by another driver who has exited a vehicle, remain in your car and call the police.  
  • Do not respond verbally or with gestures to aggressive behavior directed at you by another driver. 
  • Call 911 if you feel threatened by another person. 

If injured during a road rage or aggressive driving incident caused by another party, you may be entitled to recover compensation. Damages can include medical expenses, lost earnings, and other suffering caused by the accident.

Contact a Tampa personal injury lawyer

When an aggressive driving accident causes you to suffer serious injuries, you should seek legal advice and guidance from a Tampa personal injury lawyer. The lawyer may offer options for pursuing compensation against the driver who was at fault.