Skip to Content

Is Road Rage a Crime?

Road Rage Meaning

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that the month of August is one of the deadliest months for drivers, especially teen drivers. Also coined the “100 Deadliest Days” the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day is considered to be the most fatal for young drivers, as they are 3 times more likely than adults to be involved in a fatal crash, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Many factors contribute to these frightening statistics, including lack of experience, DUI, and more. However, road rage is becoming a contributing factor to many traffic crashes these days. Law enforcement agencies across the country are seeing an increase in road rage incidents, including fatal ones. As such, they are stepping up police patrols to help detect and deter aggressive drivers, or “road ragers.”

Aggressive driving is synonymous with road rage, and if you haven’t experienced it yourself, there’s a high chance that someone you know has. Road rage occurs when a driver operates their vehicle in a way that endangers people or property. That said, the NHTSA estimates that about one-third of all crashes and about two-thirds of the resulting fatalities were caused, in whole or in part, by aggressive driving.

What Causes a Person to Have Road Rage?

2019 data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals that nearly 80% of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression, or road rage at least once in the previous 30 days from which the study was conducted. With road rage being so common, it’s natural to wonder what factors contribute to road rage incidents.

The NTHSA reports common causes of road rage to include:

  • Running late: We’ve all been there. Running late to work, school, meetings, and appointments can trigger a person’s road rage.
  • Traffic delays: No one likes sitting in traffic, but some drivers express their frustration through aggressive and reckless driving and behaviors. Actions like speeding, tailgating, and cutting off other drivers are common road rage incidents when traffic is heavy.
  • Disregard for others: Everyone has their own daily routines, but drivers with road rage may not necessarily care about what other drivers are doing. A first-time parent could be driving their newborn baby, or a teen could be taking a driving lesson, but in either case, an aggressive driver may not consider these possibilities when expressing their road rage.
  • Disregard for the law: Maybe they’ve never gotten a traffic ticket before or think that they won’t ever get one, but drivers who express road rage out of pure disregard for the law may feel “invincible.”
  • Habitual or clinical behavior: Sometimes it’s “normal” for drivers to have road rage. Or, they could have anger problems or mental illnesses that cause them to act out of control.
  • Anonymity: Driving is both a public and private activity. Being inside a vehicle and “shielded” from the outside world can give drivers a feeling of detachment and anonymity. Knowing that they cannot be seen and most likely won’t be seen by surrounding drivers ever again can fuel a person’s road rage.

Examples of Road Rage

Road rage involves an extensive list of actions and behaviors, many of which are illegal. While aggression itself isn’t a crime, aggressive driving can manifest itself into traffic violations and crimes. That said, examples of road rage include, but are not limited to:

  • Speeding
  • Weaving in and out of traffic
  • Yelling
  • Running stop signs and stop lights
  • Making angry gestures
  • Failing to yield the right of way
  • Getting out of the car to confront another driver
  • Honking your horn out of anger
  • Tailgating
  • Illegally driving on the road shoulder, in a ditch, or on a sidewalk or median
  • Racing
  • Purposely cutting off another car
  • Failure to signal
  • Operating a vehicle in a reckless, careless, negligent, or erratic manner
  • Purposefully bumping or ramming your car into another vehicle

Is Road Rage an Offense?

As we just mentioned, road rage can cause a person to violate several traffic laws and even commit criminal offenses that result in injuries or death. From the examples of road rage above, you can see that road rage can become a criminal or traffic offense if circumstances call for it. Traffic tickets typically resolve in fines and driving points assessed to your record. If you accumulate enough points within a certain time on your driving record, however, your license could get suspended.

In serious instances, you could be charged with reckless driving in Wisconsin, which occurs when a person does the following:

  • Endangers the safety of any person or property by negligently operating a vehicle
  • Recklessly endangers the safety of any person by driving a vehicle on or across a railroad crossing or through, around, or under any crossing gate or barrier at a railroad crossing
  • Causes bodily harm to another by negligently operating a vehicle
  • Causes great bodily harm to another by negligently operating a vehicle

If convicted of reckless driving in Wisconsin, you could be fined up to $500 and/or spend up to 1 year in county jail.

You could even get charged for offenses like first or second-degree reckless homicide or homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle in Wisconsin if your road rage resulted in death. First-degree reckless homicide occurs when a person recklessly causes the death of another under circumstances that show an utter disregard for human life. A Class B felony, first-degree reckless homicide in Wisconsin is punishable by up to 60 years in prison. Second-degree reckless homicide in Wisconsin is committed when a person recklessly causes the death of another human being. This is a Class D felony offense punishable by a $100,000 fine and/or up to 25 years in prison.

The crime of homicide by the negligent operation of a vehicle is more likely to be charged in road rage incidents resulting in death. Homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle in Wisconsin occurs when a person causes the death of another by the negligent operation or handling of a vehicle. This Class G felony offense is punishable by up to a $25,000 fine and/or up to 10 years in prison. Although a person is more likely to be charged for this crime as opposed to reckless homicide, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s impossible.

If your road rage incident put other people’s safety in danger, you could be charged with recklessly endangering safety. First-degree recklessly endangering safety occurs when a person recklessly endangers another’s safety under circumstances that show utter disregard for human life. A Class F felony, this offense is punishable by a maximum $25,000 fine and/0r up to 12.5 years in prison. If you recklessly endanger another’s safety in general, you could be charged with second-degree recklessly endangering safety, a Class G felony.

You could even be charged with hate crimes for road rage. See why below.

Wisconsin Man Charged with Hate Crimes in Road Rage Shooting

A man in Madison, Wisconsin was recently charged with several felonies, including a hate crime, for shooting at a woman and threatening to kill her over a traffic dispute.

Donneil Gray of Madison allegedly cursed at a woman in traffic and called her a “Chinese dumb (expletive).” Gray threatened to kill her before rolling down his window and firing one shot at the woman. According to the complaint, the incident on August 9th occurred when an Asian woman was driving and slowed down for construction. Gray sped up behind her and slammed on his brakes, so the woman moved her vehicle out of the way. Gray then began screaming at the woman, referencing her race, and throwing trash at her car before firing a gun from his rear passenger window.

As a result, Gray is charged with two counts of second-degree reckless endangerment, one of them as a hate crime, two counts of disorderly conduct with a dangerous weapon, one of them as a hate crime as well, and other crimes.

As you can see, road rage can lead to serious criminal charges, including hate crimes.

Tips to Avoid Road Rage

With this staggering information in mind, our attorney strongly urges you to make a conscious effort to avoid road rage. Factors out of your control can trigger you to do things you otherwise wouldn’t do, but by following the road rage tips below, you could help prevent yourself from turning a bad situation worse. See below:

  • Relax, take a deep breath, and distract yourself with music or talking to a friend.
  • Follow the rules of the road.
  • If you’re dealing with an aggressive driver, avoid eye contact and don’t give in to their actions and behaviors.
  • Be tolerant and forgiving of other drivers. Don’t take things personally.
  • Don't drive when you are angry, upset, or tired.
  • Plan ahead to avoid heavy traffic.
  • It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Our emotions can get the best of us. We all have bad days. Sometimes, we’re caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. People make mistakes, and our attorney understands that people learn from their mistakes. Allow us to fight for the second chance you need, as you don’t deserve to be put behind bars for your road rage incident.

Thus, if you are facing criminal charges, get in touch with our firm online or at (414) 882-8382 to discuss your situation and learn how we can help. We are in this together.