Aggressive driving is a major catalyst in many car accidents, as it plays a role not just in those highly-publicized incidents of road rage, but also in a substantial number of fatal crashes annually.
While aggressive driving isn't always clearly defined, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) describes it as when an individual engages in a number of traffic offenses that endanger other people or property. It's also difficult to quantify because "aggressive driving" isn't typically a specific offense, but rather a group of behind-the-wheel behaviors. One study by AAA in 2009 suggested that aggressive driving likely played a role in more than 55 percent of all deadly crashes between 2003 and 2007.
The number one factor is excessive speed, which reportedly accounts for about 20 percent of all aggressive driving incidents in Texas and across the country. The Texas Department of Transportation outlines a series of aggressive driving behaviors that are infractions for which drivers can be cited. These include:
- Following too closely, 545.062(a) T.C., a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $200 fine. Basically a motorist has to maintain sufficient distance between their vehicle and the one in front so they can stop without crashing into that vehicle or another.
- Illegal pass on the right, 545.057 T.C., a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $200 fine. Drivers are only allowed to pass on the right if it's safe to do so.
- Unsafe speed, 545.351 T.C., a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $200 fine. Drivers are not allowed to travel faster than is reasonable and prudent given the conditions and must control the speed of their vehicle as necessary to avoid a collision.
- Failure to give way when overtaken, 545.053(b), T.C., a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $200 fine. Drivers being passed must, on audible signal, move or remain to the right in favor of the passing vehicle.
- Increasing one's speed while being overtaken, 545.053(b) T.C., Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $200 fine. Drivers being passed are not allowed to accelerate until they are completely passed by the passing vehicle.
- Reckless driving, 545.401 T.C., a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $200, up to 30 days in county jail, or both. Reckless driving involves willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other persons or property.
Aggressive driving comes in many forms, and it can be fatal. Over a six year time span, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed at least 12,600 were injured and 218 killed (including 94 children under 15) as a result of aggressive driving. This pattern of unsafe vehicle operation can lead to road rage, which involves an assault by a passenger or operator of a vehicle that was spurred by an incident that happened on the roadway.
When it comes to liability for these incidents, Texas is a "fault state," which means that a person found to be at-fault for a car accident will be responsible to compensate the injured person for his or her losses. It is important for victims of aggressive driving to seek experienced legal counsel, as some auto insurers will dispute payments to victims if there is evidence the injuries were inflicted intentionally. Many policies contain language indicating they will pay damages for "accidents," but not "intentional criminal acts." This doesn't mean you can't be compensated, but your attorney must tread carefully in filing your claim.
Chad Jones Law understands how challenging this process can be, and we are here to help when it matters most.