Road rage begins in the mind of angry, disgruntled drivers before manifesting as aggressive driving patterns, rude gestures, confrontation or even intentional collision or assault. The phrase originated in newscasts covering a series of shootings in the late 1980s on Los Angeles freeways. The Driver's Seat AutoVantage Road Rage Survey, conducted in 2009, listed Dallas and Fort Worth contenders for second place as cities with the worst road rage. If someone is hurt, it can be considered a second-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Classifying Road Rage
Though not a legal term in Texas, "road rage" is used broadly by law enforcement to describe speeding, aggressive driving patterns, tailgating and cutting off other drivers. Aggressive driving, defined by excessive horn honking and use of rude verbal and physical gestures, is a traffic offense. Road rage, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, is defined as "an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of another motor vehicle or an assault precipitated by an incident that occurred on a roadway."
Law Enforcement Involvement
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than 1,200 people are harmed or killed in the U.S. by aggressive driving yearly. In 1997, the Texas cities of Arlington and Fort Worth made an effort to address aggressive driving, specifically with the aim of reducing crashes and injuries. Patrol officers are actively involved in traffic enforcement, and a call-in program was developed for citizens to report aggressive drivers.
In Texas, reckless driving is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail or a fine of $200. It is defined by the Texas Transportation Code as operating a vehicle with "willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property." There are no traffic laws in Texas which explicitly mention road rage, but most acts of aggression are considered moving violations. Cases in which the angry driver takes physical measures are generally prosecuted as assault and battery, with or without a vehicle. In the event someone is killed, it is called vehicular homicide.
Specific Measures Against Road Rage
In spring 2000, the Lubbock Police Department started the Halt Aggressive Driving Program. Special enforcement teams, working with fully equipped, unmarked, non-traditional police vehicles worked overtime at selected locations to catch aggressive drivers. The state of Texas implements special tracking codes, radar detection, aircraft, videos, red light cameras, speed boards and vans, depending on the city. The Police Department in Arlington has a commuter hotline which provides angry drivers another way to express their frustration. Throughout the state, the emergency number 911 may be dialed to report threats to public safety by aggressive drivers. Additionally, local police departments answer calls reporting erratic drivers.