Aggressive Driving and Road Rage Laws in New Jersey

New Jersey is known for its bumper-to-bumper traffic, complicated roads, and intense often combative drivers. Trenton and Somerset NJ Attorneys Discuss. 

Aggressive Driving and Road Rage Laws in New JerseySometimes when congested highways and people who are in a hurry provide the perfect storm for road rage to rear its ugly head.  Road rage is not just offensive, it can be extremely dangerous, and it is a problem that has been on the rise as more and more vehicles fill the same congested streets. In recent studies done by AAA, throughout the United States more than 80% of drivers admitted to driving aggressively.

Aggressive driving can include actions that one may consider a normal part of driving such as speeding, cutting others off, honking the horn repeatedly, or using angry hand gestures.  In some unfortunate instances, that aggressive driving turns into road rage.  It is estimated that every year thousands of people have been seriously injured due to road rage and hundreds have been killed.

What is Road Rage?

Road rage is aggressive or angry behavior exhibited by motorists. These behaviors include rude and offensive gestures, verbal insults, physical threats, or dangerous driving methods such as include longhorn honks, swerving, tailgating, or brake checking. Those actions are targeted toward another driver or non-drivers such as pedestrians or cyclists to intimidate or release frustration. Road rage can lead to altercations, damage to property, assaults, and collisions that result in serious physical injuries or even death. At times, drivers will get out of their vehicles to start a physical fight on the roadway.

How prevalent is road rage in New Jersey?

A survey consisting of 1,012 New Jersey consumers with valid driver licenses who operate a vehicle at least once per week included questions about personal driving behavior and observed driving behavior to measure tendencies and attitudes regarding aggressive driving. The study had a 95 percent confidence interval and +/- 2 percent margin of error. It was conducted by Plymouth Rock Management Company of New Jersey and the findings were shocking:

  • 99% witnessed at least one road rage incident
  • 96% perceived that other drivers disobey posted speed limits on major highways
  • 89% witnessed other drivers change lanes without signaling
  • 59% witnessed other drivers make insulting gestures
  • 35% reported occasional “uncontrollable anger” behind the wheel
  • 11% witnessed other drivers engage in physical altercations

How are aggressive driving and road rage different?

How are aggressive driving and road rage different?Road rage occurs when there is intent to produce bodily harm to someone else.  A driver engaging in road rage may use his vehicle as a weapon or use something else in the car to harm the other person.  According to the American Safety Council, over one-third of road rage cases involve firearms.  Road rage is considered a criminal offense due to the intentional nature of the attack and is taken very seriously by law enforcement. While equally uncalled for, aggressive driving is a much milder form of driving and is usually limited to a small incident, not resulting in damage.

How have New Jersey road rage laws changed?

A 2012 law termed “Jessica’s Law,” was created after a 16-year old girl named Jessica Rogers was disabled in a car accident that resulted from road rage. Although she had had two dozen surgeries since the accident, the driver of the other car spent only four months in jail. Jessica worked to create stiffer penalties for road rage that results in injury to another, saying that while she serves a life sentence, the man who caused her injuries received only 4 months in prison.

After successfully lobbying in the state’s Assembly, the bill was passed unanimously, and Jessica’s Law became a reality.

Under the new law, if road rage leads to a serious injury, such as Jessica’s, the driver can be charged with a third-degree offense. Third-degree offenses in New Jersey are punishable with three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.  If the aggressive driving leads to injuries of a lesser degree, the driver can be charged with a fourth-degree offense, which is punishable with up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.

How can I avoid getting angry when I drive?

Leave on time.

If you feel less rushed, then you will have less of a reason to get upset by other drivers.

Listen to music.

If you listen to music, you have something that distracts you. Music has a calming effect.  Audiobooks are a good idea as well.

Pull over.

No, don’t pull off where the other driver went to. Instead, pull off someplace else, get out of your car, and do some deep breathing for a few minutes.

Make your car as comfortable as possible.

Your surroundings affect your mood. So if it’s hot, crank up your AC. If it’s cool, then turn your heater on.

Realize other people sometimes make bad choices.

People talk on their cell phones, eat, and even put on make-up or shave while they are driving. That makes them even more dangerous to be sharing the road with, so keep your wits about you and focus on getting to where you are going.

What should I do if I encounter road rage from another driver?

If you are targeted by angry drivers, try these tips:

  1. Call 911 and request help.
  2. Drive to a nearby police station, fire station, or a very busy parking lot.
  3. Attempt to get out of the way of the other driver as safe as possible.
  4. Do not look at or acknowledge the enraged driver.
  5. Do not drive home while being actively pursued.
  6. Practice defensive driving.

Contact an Experienced Trenton Personal Injury Attorney Today

Road rage accidents are often instigated by unnecessary confrontations that are better left alone. Unfortunately, these confrontations can have devastating and deadly conclusions.  At Kamensky Cohen & Riechelson, our diligent New Jersey experienced attorneys strive to hold responsible parties accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

To schedule a confidential case assessment with our firm today, please contact our online file or through our Morristown, NJ office at (609) 528-2596