Wheels of Justice
Road rage is not something to ignore
I recently discussed road rage with my neighbor, psychiatrist Leland Dennis, MD, radio host Elizabeth Walsh and several CDL drivers as they called into the Sirius Radio show on Channel 147. The conversation was interesting to say the least. The CDL drivers had stories that would curl your hair. Here in Oklahoma, I seldom see road rage, but I sure do see aggressive driving.
Let me explain the difference between aggressive driving and road rage. Aggressive driving can best be described as a traffic violation or combination of violations, such as following too close, failure to signal a lane change, improper lane changes and the big one: speeding.
According to Dr. Dennis, the trigger for aggressive driving is usually lack of time or the perceived lack of time. This can be due to anything from traffic congestion, oversleeping or problems getting the kids to school. In today’s society, just about everyone has something that puts their life in the fast lane: cell phones, email, instant messages, instant oatmeal, instant coffee, instant, instant, instant.
“The problem arises when everything seems so right now, so instant that you come to believe you have to respond just as quickly,” says Dr. Dennis. “Most people know how long it takes to get from place to place, and when that timeframe is interrupted, they feel the need to be more aggressive in their driving to arrive on time.”
Dr. Dennis describes road rage as a criminal offense such as physical confrontation, assault with a motor vehicle or possibly use of or brandishing a weapon. “People who exhibit road rage often are so angry over a driving incident that they overreact and retaliate with some form of violence,” he explains.
Of course, you are entitled to defend yourself if you are attacked. The legal defense of self-defense is available in the United States, and it allows a person to use reasonable force in his own defense and in the defense of others. A person may not use deadly force unless he is in reasonable fear of serious physical injury or death, however. Most states include a duty to retreat. Deadly force can only be legally used if the person acting in self-defense is unable to safely retreat.
Road rage is not something to ignore. Dr. Dennis has a few suggestions on how to avoid provoking or escalating road rage. First, drive safely and politely. Second, don’t make eye contact with the person you suspect of road rage. Third, take a deep breath and back off. The life you save may be your own.
Jim C. Klepper is president of Interstate Trucker Ltd., an organization that provides legal defense protection to commercial drivers. Jim is a lawyer who focuses on transportation law and the trucking industry in particular. He works to answer your legal questions about trucking, and he holds his Commercial Drivers License.