It would be hard to spend a day driving in Tampa Bay without witnessing an incident of aggressive or reckless driving. All too often that kind of driving leads to an incident of road rage. Perhaps the worst of all is that psychologists tell us that anyone can be susceptible to road rage. It can happen in an instant, someone cuts in front of you or is driving too slow in the so-called passing lane. You’re late for work or for an appointment and you start honking and swearing at the other driver. That other driver doesn’t like what you’re doing and chooses to slow down even more or check his brakes, a collision ensues and then the craziness starts. Before you know it, punches are thrown, tire irons wielded, or a gun is fired. Soon thereafter, both drivers are in handcuffs and going to jail, if they’re lucky to be alive.
The scenario I just described is real and it happens more than I care to think and Florida can be a flashpoint for road rage with all the traffic, snowbirds, and elderly.
As a criminal defense attorney, I’ve represented my fair share of people charged with criminal offenses related to road rage. Sometimes, the charges are aggressive driving but in the worst case scenario, road rage incidents can lead to manslaughter or homicide.
It just isn’t worth it. When I get behind the wheel, I try to remind myself I could be facing any number of unforeseen events and need to be prepared. When another driver annoys me or drives aggressively, I try to let it go. If the driver is young, I try to imagine that that driver could be one of my own kids. If the driver is elderly, I try to imagine it could be one of my parents (if they were alive). This little exercise helps me have a little compassion, shut off the thoughts of annoyance in my head and let it go. It just isn’t worth it.
Another thing to be aware of while driving and encountering aggressive driving is that you don’t know the person in the other car. He/she may have a gun or a weapon and may be prone to violence. You just don’t know.
The Florida Department of Motor Vehicles has an entire section of its website devoted to road rage and it’s worth checking out. Here’s what they say about diffusing a potential road rage situation:
If you’ve upset another driver, it’s important to defuse the situation as soon as possible. The best way to do this is by showing remorse. You can do so by:
- Waving to the other driver.
- Mouthing that you’re sorry.
- Allowing plenty of room for them to pass you.
Be the bigger person. This helps to keep everyone, including yourself, safe. Of course, you should always call the police if you believe you’re in imminent danger.
When another upsets you, don’t make the situation more difficult than it has to be. Before taking matters into your own hands, you should:
- Pull over to a safe location, out of the way of traffic.
- Take deep breaths—maybe even count backwards.
- Remember you have full control over your own actions and thoughts.
- Think about the consequences of your actions, should you contemplate exacting revenge on the other driver.
By remaining calm and not taking other drivers’ actions personally, you can avoid legal repercussions and accidents.
Remember, unless you want to come see me to defend you in a criminal case, just don’t engage in road rage or aggressive driving. It just isn’t worth it.