It seems like every time you turn on the news, there is another incident of aggressive driving or so-called “road rage” in North Texas. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 9 out of 10 drivers believe aggressive driving is a threat to their personal safety. Additionally, 8 million drivers have reported getting out of their car to confront another driver or bumped another car on purpose. While there is no law in Texas that uses the term “road rage,” many of the acts associated with road rage can result in criminal charges.
What is Road Rage?
Road Rage was a term originally coined by the media in Los Angeles in the 1990’s due to a string of shootings that occurred on their highways. Road rage is part of the spectrum that is aggressive driving. Aggressive driving is defined by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHSTA) as “the operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that is likely to endanger persons or property.” Road rage often stems from the emotional distress aggressive driving causes, and results in behavior that is dangerous to yourself and others on the road.
How is Road Rage Prosecuted?
As mentioned, there is no specific offense that mentions “road rage” in Texas. However, some charges that can stem from road rage include reckless driving, criminal mischief, aggravated assault, discharging a firearm, deadly conduct and even murder. As with most incidents, charges and punishment ranges are dependent on the severity of the action and incident. Reckless driving, for example, is a misdemeanor, while murder would be a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison.
Examples of Road Rage Prosecutions in Texas
Texas is rife with road rage incidents, and they come in many forms. Here are some examples of some recent Texas road rage incidents and their outcomes.
- In July 2017, a 22-year-old man was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 50 years in prison due to a road rage incident that occurred in the summer of 2016. The man, Aspen Warren, shot a woman through her car door, killing her. Warren said he intended to scare the young woman, and that “you can’t road rage somebody and expect them not to road rage you back, ” according to a story on NBC5.
- In August 2017, Arlington police arrested a man for allegedly firing five rounds from a handgun into the air, in response to another driver honking their horn in an attempt to avoid a collision. The man was charged with deadly conduct and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.
- In November 2017, Texas Christian University was put on lockdown due to an alleged road rage incident between two Roadrunner shuttle bus drivers on campus. Officials said two campus shuttle drivers allegedly got into an argument; one fired a gun at the other, missed, and then rammed one shuttle bus into the other shuttle bus. Fort Worth police arrested one of the drivers in the incident, and charged him with felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and bringing a gun on campus. (TCU is not an open carry campus.) That charge was later changed to murder, however, after the victim died a few weeks later from injuries sustained in the crash. The defendant took his own life in June 2018 while his criminal case was pending.
- In May 2018, a man armed with a machete was recorded smashing a driver’s windows in a road rage incident on a Dallas freeway. According to news reports, after two vehicles sideswiped, one of the drivers exited his vehicle, walked to the other driver’s car and swung the weapon multiple times. The man with the machete fled the scene and an arrest hasn’t been made.
What Can You Do to Avoid Road Rage?
Practicing safe driving habits is the key to avoiding incidents of road rage. This includes not driving when you are tired or distracted, not using obscene hand gestures, and leaving enough space between you and other drivers. Try to be wary of others behavior and avoid aggressive drivers. Aggressive behaviors are often a result of your attitude and emotional state. Put on relaxing music, practice patience, remember that you are sharing the road and try to put yourself in other driver’s shoes. Remember the Golden Rule and treat others how you would like to be treated.
How Can You Avoid Being the Victim of Road Rage?
If you find yourself on the receiving end of road rage, do not retaliate. Get out of their way, give them space to pass you or take an alternate route to your destination. Call the police if you believe you are in immediate danger, or if the driver is a danger to all the cars around you. It is best to not engage and be the bigger person, and ensure that you and your passengers reach your destination safely.
If you or a loved one is facing charges stemming from a Texas road rage incident, you need a skilled attorney by your side. Our team of former prosecutors and Board Certified Criminal Law Specialists are here to help.
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Also published on Medium.