Recent news reports detail a harrowing experience on a New Jersey highway in which a driver was shot at by someone in an unidentified SUV in an apparent road rage incident. In fact, 2021 is projected to hit an all-time high in the number of people killed or injured by road rage shootings. With all the media attention, many drivers have questions about road rage accidents and wonder if road rage is a crime in New Jersey.
Road Rage vs Aggressive Driving
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) makes key distinctions between road rage and aggressive driving. Aggressive driving is defined as dangerous on-the-road behavior such as speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, tailgating, and running red lights. These acts are illegal traffic offenses. Road rage, on the other hand, is defined as a driver who "commits moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property; an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle on the operator or passengers of another motor vehicle". In other words, the driver is purposely seeking to endanger others -- a criminal offence.
Is Road Rage a Crime in New Jersey?
New Jersey’s aggressive driving law known as Jessica’s Law imposes severe penalties for drivers convicted of aggressive driving. For instance, a driver that commits road rage and causes serious injury can be charged with a third degree offense and could face three to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine. A road rage accident that leads to lesser injuries is a fourth degree offense and the offender could be sentenced to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Keep in mind these examples refer to accidents that occur because of aggressive driving. In the example of a road rage incident involving gun violence, the act of shooting at anyone is a criminal offense in and of itself.
How to Handle an Aggressive Driver
If you suspect another vehicle on the road is driving aggressively and may escalate the situation, follow these tips from WebMD on how to handle an aggressive driver:
- Do not engage the other driver. Don’t honk your horn, return hand gestures, make eye contact or egg on the other driver in any way.
- Change lanes or pull over, if necessary. If you are being tailgated, change lanes, pull over or get off at the next exit to let the driver pass you.
- Try to get behind the other vehicle. Staying behind the aggressive driver is generally safer and puts you in a better position.
- If there is a passenger in the car, ask that person to record the vehicle’s make and model as well as license plate number. If you feel threatened and the driver continues to act aggressively, you can report the driver and the vehicle to the police.
Can You Sue for a Road Rage Accident?
Many times, yes you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against another driver, if that driver’s aggressive driving caused an injury accident. Under New Jersey law, drivers owe a ‘duty of care’ to other drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists to operate their vehicle in a safe manner. When a negligent driver fails in this duty of care and causes an accident, you may be able to file a personal injury claim and seek compensation for your medical bills, lost income and other losses due to the accident.
Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, Can Help
If you’ve been injured in a car accident caused by an aggressive driver, don’t go it alone. Our experienced car accident lawyers can advocate for your best interest and pursue fair compensation for your damages. At Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, you can count on us to work tirelessly for your quality of life. We’ve helped people just like you move forward after sustaining an injury that was caused by another’s negligence. Contact us now at 877-448-7350