With a large portion of out-of-state visitors, college kids, elderly drivers, and our fair share of some of the most dangerous roads in America, Arizona driving can be a big frustration. However, as frustrating as driving in traffic can be, drivers may want to turn down the dial on road rage. In Arizona, road rage can lead to a criminal charge. In this article, we'll talk about the consequences of road rage and how to keep calm behind the wheel.
Road Rage Can Result in Jail Time, Not Just a Traffic Ticket
While sputtering some curse words when someone cuts you off may seem innocent enough, anger on the roads often leads to accidents and other forms of violence. In certain situations, a little annoyance can heat up fast, escalating into more violent behavior. This is why Arizona has taken action to cut down on heated traffic exchanges by implementing laws, such as A.R.S. 28-695, to dissuade aggressive actions while driving. “Aggressive driving” is typically the charge for road rage-induced incidents. “Aggressive driving” doesn't necessarily need to include anger. Some examples of scenarios in which you may be charged with Aggressive driving include:
- Unsafe lane changes
- Following another vehicle too closely
- Passing another vehicle by driving off road
- Failure to yield right-of-way or traffic control devices (entrance ramps, road lines, etc)
If you are using excessive speed and commit two of the above violations, you could be found guilty of aggressive driving, resulting in a Class 1 misdemeanor charge, and subject to such penalties as 6 months in jail, a $2500 fine, and up to three years of probation. The court may also suspend your driving privilege for 30 days. If convicted of a second charge, you may be stripped of your driving privilege for a year.
Another potential charge associated with road rage is “reckless driving,” which is also a criminal charge. ARS 28-693. Persons found guilty of reckless driving will be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor and subject to penalties such as fines, driver's license suspension, and up to 4 months in jail.
Violent Incidents on the Road Have Increased
Laws like the ones discussed above are in place to protect Arizonians. According to data released by the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, there were 622 potential road rage incidents reported in 2021, which is the highest number since tracking of these incidents started 5 years ago. Last year saw a 23% rise in violent potential road rage incidents from 2020 reports. In some road rage incidents, jail may be the least of all worries; there are many cases where anger on the road leads to deadly shootings, physical assaults, running another vehicle off the road, serious car accidents, and other dangerous scenarios.
Here are some startling statistics about road rage, according to Bankrate.com:
- 78% of drivers admitted to engaging in at least one road rage behavior in the last year, including yelling, honking, and tailgating
- In a seven-year period, road rage incidents caused 218 murders and 12,610 injuries
- “Running late” is a common reason given for aggressive driving
- Based on 2014 to 2016 data, Phoenix is among the leading cities for road rage involving firearms
How to Stay Cool in Frustrating Situations on the Road
Staying cool in frustrating traffic situations is easier said than done, but the potential for criminal charges and penalties should make Arizona drivers think twice before they let the rage take over the situation. Some tips on staying cool in frustrating situations are:
- Don't take it too personally; the bad driver probably doesn't even know you
- Be aware that road rage could escalate a situation with a stranger potentially resulting in assault, injuries, or even death
- Just let it go – this moment won't matter in five years unless you are convicted of a road rage-associated charge or severely harmed as a result of a road rage-induced accident or assault.
- Avoid using your horn as much as possible; if you need to use your horn, try short honks rather than long honks or series of honks
- If the situation is really dangerous, call the authorities. The police want to know if a driver is driving dangerously and recklessly
- If you feel threatened by another driver, get to the nearest police station and notify the police; ensure that your doors are locked, and pay attention to your surroundings. Don't let yourself get blocked in by another vehicle.
- Be kind on the road – don't use gestures or obscenities
Road Rage Isn't Worth It
Road rage isn't worth the potential risks and harm it could cause. Keep your temper in check. If you're late, you're late – it's better than arriving with a criminal charge or not arriving at all.
If you witness another driver's road rage, the best thing to do is not engage with them. Do not make eye contact, and keep driving to a safe location. Once it's safe to do so, alert the authorities to the situation. Provide a time, date, location, driver description, license plate, and vehicle description if possible.
Note that this blog is meant to provide general information and is not intended to take the place of legal advice or create attorney-client privilege.