Road rage in Michigan poses a significant safety risk. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that aggressive driving factor into 56% of all fatal car accidents. Additionally, nearly 80% of drivers expressed aggression or anger behind the wheel at least once in the previous year.
This driving behavior is common and deadly. Aggressive driving combined with stress or anger can turn up emotions quickly. When people lose control behind the wheel, they lose good driving judgment.
Many people don’t know what to do about aggressive driving. In our blog today, we’ll discuss strategies to help you both prevent aggressive driving and to prevent being a victim of someone else’s overly aggressive driving.
What is road rage?
Road rage is unsafe and aggressive driving with a reckless disregard for the safety of others on the road. It is often combined with a deliberate intent to harm, intimidate or cause fear in another driver. It can lead to deadly consequences and involves violations of a state’s traffic and criminal laws.
Is there a Michigan road rage law?
There is no Michigan road rage law. But there are laws and serious penalties for drivers who engage in aggressive driving that endangers the safety of others. Drivers could be charged with reckless driving, assault with a dangerous weapon or intentional discharge of firearm from a vehicle.
Penalties for road rage in Michigan
Below are the serious penalties for road rage in Michigan, but that’s because the safety threat posed by drivers exhibiting aggressive and dangers behavior is serious.
- Reckless driving, which occurs when a person drives “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property,” is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison if it causes “serious impairment of a body function to another person.” (MCL 257.626(2) and (3)) Reckless driving is punishable by up to 15 years in prison if it “causes the death of another person.” (MCL 257.626(4)
- Assault with a dangerous weapon – such as where the driver uses his or her vehicle in a way that was likely to cause serious physical injury or death – is a felony that is punishable by up to 4-years, 10-years or lifetime imprisonment, depending on whether murder or great bodily harm was or was not intended. (MCL 750.82; 750.83; 750.84)
- Intentional discharge of a firearm from a motor vehicle is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison for “endanger[ing] the safety of another individual,” by up to 15 years in prison for “caus[ing] any physical injury to another individual,” up to 20 years in prison for “caus[ing] the serious impairment of a body function of another individual,” or up to life in prison for “caus[ing] the death of another individual.” (MCL 750.234a(1))
As Michigan Auto Law attorney Brandon Hewitt recently told WXYZ this Tuesday:
“We see that up to 50% of fatal accidents usually involve some sort of aggressive driving.”
To learn more about the role that road rage plays in fatal car accidents – and what you can do to stay safe – check out WXYZ’s interview with Michigan Auto Law attorney Brandon Hewitt below.
Here are examples of the types of aggressive driving behavior you can encounter on the road:
- Discharging a gun at another driver, other vehicles or pedestrians or bicyclists
- Ramming another vehicle
- Sideswiping another vehicle
- Forcing another driver off the road
- Blocking cars attempting to pass or change lanes
- Cutting in front of someone and then slowing down
- Brake-checking and slamming one’s brakes
- Running a red light
- Getting out of your car to confront another driver
- Physical threats
- Throwing objects at another driver, other vehicles or pedestrians or bicyclists
- Verbal insults
- Making rude or obscene gestures
- Flashing one’s high beams
- Deliberately changing lanes too close to another vehicle
Is brake checking illegal in Michigan?
There is not a specific law that makes brake checking illegal in Michigan. However, slamming on one’s brakes to retaliate against a tailgater could result in a ticket for careless driving if the police determine you endangered another person. Additionally, if you cause an accident, then you may be found at fault.
Is road rage a criminal offense?
In Michigan, road rage is not by itself a specific criminal offense. But the consequences of this type of aggressive driving typically are. Depending on the behavior, a driver could be charged with careless and reckless driving, assault, discharge of a firearm, manslaughter or even murder.
For example, there have been a number of incidents involving shootings on highways in Metro Detroit. The intentional discharge of a firearm from a motor vehicle is a felony punishable by 10 years to life in prison. (MCL 750.234a(1))
What causes this type of aggressive driving behavior?
Stress, anxiety or anger – or all three – are the main causes of aggressive driving. The frustration at being late, having had a disagreement or struggling with health risks can easily bubble up when a person is behind the wheel. However, this is not an excuse for driving in a manner that can cause great harm to others.
Can you sue for road rage in Michigan?
Yes. You can sue for road rage in Michigan if you have suffered an injury in a car accident caused by another driver’s unsafe and overly aggressive driving behavior. You can bring a lawsuit for your injuries, losses, and damages. If the conduct was intentional, then you can also sue for gross negligence.
In a car accident lawsuit for intentional misconduct or gross negligence, a victim could sue for coverage of medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering compensation, emotional distress, PTSD, depression, permanent disability and future economic damages. Additionally, if the driver who demonstrated the aggressive driving behavior is convicted of a crime, then you may be entitled to additional monetary restitution through the criminal case.
In the event that a victim’s injury is not the result of intentional conduct, then the accident victim is still able to claim No-Fault PIP insurance benefits. Additionally, when an accident victim’s injuries are caused by accidental negligence – if the aggressive driving was reckless but not intentional conduct – then he or she can also sue the at-fault driver for pain and suffering compensation, excess medical benefits, excess wage loss benefits and other economic compensation.
How to report a road rage incident?
The best way to report a road rage incident in Michigan is to call 9-1-1, rather than state or local police. Provide as much detailed information as possible about the driver, including the make/model/color of his or her vehicle, license plate number and the road (and direction) on which the driver was traveling.
By calling 9-1-1, you will be contacting the dispatch center that is nearest to your location. Additionally, 9-1-1 can arrange for any emergency help that’s necessary, such as immediate help from police, fire, ambulance, or other emergency responders. Police are trained to take these types of reports seriously because the consequences so often can be deadly.
How to reduce it?
The best way to reduce this driving behavior is to not engage in it, to steer clear of it when you see others engaging in it, and to report it to the police as soon as you can safely do so. The best defense is to remain calm and not to engage with a belligerent driver. To protect everyone’s safety, never exit your car.
To help reduce this type of driving behavior, drivers should keep these safety tips in mind:
- Don’t respond. Avoid the hand gestures and nonverbal communication that prompts and/or aggravates a developing situation.
- Don’t reciprocate. As attorney Brandon Hewitt told WXYZ: “If you see someone tailgating you, move over. If someone cuts you off, back up.”
- Remain calm. People can quickly go to Defcon 1 and see red behind the wheel. But if you can take a deep breath and move past the stress safely, you can defuse the situation. The best way to avoid this behavior is to avoid engaging with the other driver.
- Be courteous, or at the very least, be patient. Try your best to stay calm, regardless of what you encounter on the road. As attorney Brandon Hewitt told WXYZ: “Understand that other people are under stress even if you’re not.”
- Don’t get out of your car. Never leave your car to confront the other driver. You don’t know who is out there and what they’re capable of.
- Call 911. If you feel you’re in danger, call the police. Or drive to a nearby venue where it’s safe to do so.
- Report aggressive drivers. Call 9-1-1 to make a report with detailed information.
Injured and need a lawyer?
If you have been injured in a road rage incident in Michigan, you can call toll free anytime 24/7 at (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our experienced auto accident attorneys. You can also get help from an experienced attorney by emailing [email protected] or you can use the chat feature on our website.