Is Road Rage a Criminal Offense in Florida?

February 16, 2024
Jack Fine

Driving in Florida can sometimes be a stressful experience. Whether you’re navigating through bumper-to-bumper traffic, dodging reckless drivers, or maneuvering around road construction projects, it’s completely natural to feel a bit of frustration when you’re behind the wheel. However, for some individuals, what starts as a minor annoyance can quickly escalate into something more serious: road rage.

At Fine, Farkash and Parlapiano, P.A., we understand how quickly situations on the road can spiral out of control. If you are a victim of another driver’s road rage, our personal injury lawyers are here to help. 

Definition of Road Rage

Based on the 2019 data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, approximately 80% of drivers reported experiencing considerable anger, aggression, or road rage while driving at least once in the past month. Road rage refers to aggressive or angry behavior exhibited by a driver of a road vehicle. These behaviors include rude and offensive gestures, verbal insults, threats, dangerous driving methods, or even physical assault in extreme cases. 

It is important to differentiate road rage from aggressive driving. While aggressive driving can be a traffic offense, road rage is more severe and often involves a criminal element.

In Florida, road rage is taken very seriously due to the potential for harm it poses to other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. The behavior typically stems from a driver’s uncontrolled anger or frustration, often in response to another driver’s actions. It can escalate quickly from aggressive driving (like tailgating, speeding, or weaving through traffic) to more dangerous actions that can endanger lives.

Examples of Road Rage

Several behaviors can be classified as road rage, especially when they pose a threat to public safety. Some common examples include:

  • Tailgating: Following another vehicle too closely, often in an intimidating manner.
  • Yelling or making obscene gestures: Using verbal abuse or hand signals to express anger towards other drivers.
  • Cutting off other vehicles: Deliberately and abruptly entering another driver’s lane, often without signaling and in a dangerous manner.
  • Brake checking: Suddenly braking to startle or confront the driver behind.
  • Confrontation: Exiting one’s vehicle to confront another driver in a threatening manner.
  • Using a vehicle as a weapon: Intentionally hitting or attempting to hit another vehicle or pedestrian.

These behaviors can lead to serious criminal charges in Florida, especially if they result in accidents, injuries, or property damage. It’s important for drivers to understand that while frustration on the road is common, giving in to road rage can have severe legal and personal consequences.

Impact of Road Rage on Society

Road rage extends beyond the confines of the roads and highways; it has far-reaching impacts on society as a whole. When drivers give in to their anger and frustration, turning them into aggressive actions, it creates a ripple effect that influences the overall safety and well-being of communities. The societal impact of road rage includes: 

  • Increased Traffic Accidents: One of the most direct impacts of road rage is the increased likelihood of traffic accidents. Aggressive maneuvers, like speeding, abrupt lane changes, and tailgating, contribute to collisions, which can lead to injuries, fatalities, and property damage. These incidents affect not only the involved parties but also their families and the wider community.
  • Heightened Stress Levels: Regular exposure to aggressive driving and road rage can elevate stress levels among drivers and passengers. This heightened stress can have long-term health implications, including increased risk of heart conditions, anxiety disorders, and other stress-related health issues.
  • Economic Costs: Road rage incidents often result in accidents that demand police, medical, and insurance involvement, leading to increased economic costs. These costs include emergency response, medical care, vehicle repairs, and legal proceedings, which can burden not just the individuals involved but also societal resources.
  • Deterioration of Public Safety: Frequent road rage incidents contribute to a sense of insecurity on the roads. This can lead to a lack of confidence in road safety, discouraging people from using certain routes or modes of transportation, and can even impact tourism in areas notorious for road rage incidents.
  • Social and Psychological Impact: Road rage can create an environment of hostility and aggression on the roads, which affects the overall social fabric. This negativity can extend beyond the road, affecting interpersonal relationships and community interactions.

Is Road Rage a Criminal Offense?

While road rage in itself is not classified as a distinct crime, the actions that constitute road rage often cross the threshold into criminal territory. Feelings of aggression while driving can escalate into physical altercations, transforming road rage into a criminal act. It’s important to distinguish between the emotional state of road rage and the actual unlawful behaviors it can provoke.

Aggressive Driving as a Crime

Aggressive driving is a significant concern on Florida’s roads as it ranks 17th in the nation for the most confrontational drivers. In Florida, a driver is considered to be engaging in aggressive driving if they commit two or more of the following actions:

  • Speeding
  • Failing to yield the right-of-way
  • Unsafe or improper lane changes
  • Improper passing
  • Following too closely
  • Failing to obey traffic control devices (like stop signs, yield signs, traffic signals, and railroad grade cross signals)

Violations like improper passing, failing to yield the right-of-way, and following too closely typically result in fines of $120.50 and the addition of 3 points to your driver’s license. More severe infractions, such as running a red light, are fined at higher rates ($185.50) and accrue 4 points on the driver’s record. Speeding fines and points vary based on the severity and circumstances of the offense.

Reckless Driving and Deadly Weapons as Crimes

Reckless driving is another serious offense that often intersects with road rage. This crime involves operating a vehicle with a “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” When road rage escalates to the use of a vehicle as a weapon — intentionally hitting another car, for instance — it can be classified as reckless driving or assault with a deadly weapon. In severe cases, especially when involving bodily harm or property damage, reckless driving can lead to significant legal penalties.

Criminal Charges for Acts of Road Rage

Physical confrontations and assaults stemming from road rage incidents can lead to criminal charges. Depending on the severity of the act, charges can range from misdemeanors to felonies. In cases where road rage leads to physical harm or the use of a deadly weapon, the legal consequences become even more severe.

Wanton Disregard for Safety as a Crime

Lastly, actions demonstrating a wanton disregard for safety — such as excessively speeding in crowded areas, aggressive tailgating, or deliberate intimidation on the road — can lead to criminal charges. These actions not only reflect poor judgment but also a blatant disregard for the law and the safety of others.

Insurance Coverage and Intentional Torts 

When it comes to reckless driving and insurance, most policies distinguish between negligent and deliberate acts. While Bodily Injury (BI) liability covers drivers for negligent acts, they typically do not extend to intentional torts. This means that if an action during a road rage incident is deemed intentional, like deliberately assaulting or battering another vehicle, it may not be covered by insurance. 

Alleging or proving a deliberate act in a road rage case can have negative consequences. These include not only financial responsibility for damages and legal costs, but also the possibility of facing additional penalties such as driver’s license suspension, incarceration, restitution, or criminal charges, depending on the specifics of the case.   

Road rage is a serious concern that requires vigilance and a calm approach to prevent accidents. If you’ve been involved in an accident caused by an aggressive driver, our car accident attorneys at Fine, Farkash and Parlapiano, P.A. are here to help. Call us today for your free consultation. 


Aggressive Driving | AAA Exchange

States With The Most Confrontational Drivers 2023 | Forbes