What Are the Laws Concerning Road Rage in California?
Road rage has become a serious problem in California and throughout the United States. In fact, according to an overview of road rage and aggressive driving published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety's study of road rage revealed that there was a 51 percent increase in serious incidents of road rage between 1990 and 1996.
“Intentionally causing harm to others on the road has criminal and civil consequences in California,” explained personal injury lawyer James Ballidis.
The NHTSA suggests that many factors have potentially played a role in causing drivers to become more aggressive: an increase in traffic congestion; increasingly busy schedules causing more people to be running late; cultural disregard for others and for the law as influenced by films and television; longer commuting times; and violent video games.
Whatever the potential reasons, it is clear that there have been many high profile incidents of road rage in recent years, especially in the state of California. In 2007, for example, the Los Angeles Times reported that California Highway 138 had to be closed during a construction project because of road rage directed at construction workers. Some angry motorists, incensed by delays, ran over construction workers with their vehicles and one construction worker was even shot with a BB gun.
More recently, the Los Angeles Times reported that a fight between four men on the side of a freeway near downtown LA was caught on tape. Based on cell phone video provided by a passing motorist, on June 12, 2012 at approximately 3:30 p.m., four men became involved in a one-on-one fistfight. However, three of the men eventually ganged up on one of the victims, kicking him as he was sprawled on the ground. The suspects who were allegedly involved in the fight fled the scene in a Volkswagen. According to Fox News, two of the men have since been charged with assault with a deadly weapon (their feet) and assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury.
Road Rage Laws
California law specifically addresses road rage and imposes penalties for this act:
"In addition to the penalties set forth… [in the penal code for assault]…the court may order the suspension of the driving privilege of any operator of a motor vehicle who commits an assault as described in…the Penal Code section 245(a)… on an operator or passenger of another motor vehicle, an operator of a bicycle, or a pedestrian and the offense occurs on a highway.
“The suspension period authorized under this section for an assault commonly known as ‘road rage,’ shall be six months for a first offense and one year for a second or subsequent offense to commence, at the discretion of the court, either on the date of the person's conviction, or upon the person's release from confinement or imprisonment.
“The court may, in lieu of or in addition to the suspension of the driving privilege, order a person convicted under this section to complete a court-approved anger management or ‘road rage’ course, subsequent to the date of the current violation."
This driver's license suspension is separate from and in addition to any penalties for assault.
California's additional sanctions are an important step in the effort to combat road rage. Individuals who are guilty of road rage and who cause harm to others through either overly aggressive driving or through a physical assault can be subject not only to criminal penalties under California law, but also to civil lawsuits by those harmed by the wrongful acts of the angry drivers.
Additional information on road rage and on the personal injury claims process is available to the public free of charge through our office.
If you would like to request one of these free resources, or to discuss a specific legal matter with a California personal injury lawyer, feel free to call 866-981-5596.