Aggressive Driving May Factor Into More Than Half of Auto Accidents
Resources for Colorado Drivers on Aggressive, Reckless and Careless Driving
According to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association (RMIIA), aggressive driving, which may escalate to a road rage assault, is any driving behavior that places another person or property in danger willfully and without regard to safety.
Whether a driver is late, in a hurry, distracted by emotions, or just in a bad mood, AAA estimates that 56 percent of the automobile accidents occurring between 2003 and 2007 involved aggressive driving. Citing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), SafeMotorist.com reports that aggressive driving is a factor in up to 66 percent of traffic fatalities.
What is Aggressive Driving?
Aggressive driving can range from risky behavior to serious violence, and may include:
- Honking the horn excessively
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Following too closely
- Failure to signal a lane change
- Making rude gestures
- Bumping other vehicles at intersections.
These actions may easily distract a driver’s attention, resulting in driving maneuvers that can lead to an accident. Data compiled by AAA indicates that speeding is one of the most common forms of aggressive driving, and a quarter of drivers say they consider speeding to be acceptable.
Aggressive Driving or Road Rage?
When aggressive driving accelerates to incidents of screaming, rude gestures, and even violence, it is commonly known as road rage. According to SafeMotorist.com, newscasters at Los Angeles local news station KTLA coined the term “road rage” after a string of shootings on freeways in the city during the 1980s.
The NHTSA makes a clear distinction between aggressive driving (a traffic offense) and road rage (a criminal offense), placing the blame squarely on the driver. Aggressive driving is defined as the “operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property.” Road rage is defined as an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one vehicle upon the operator or passengers of another.
Currently, 15 states have laws that criminalize aggressive driving. Although Colorado does not have a statute that specifically addresses aggressive driving, both careless driving and reckless driving are criminal offenses in the state. Colorado legislators rejected several pieces of aggressive-driving legislation during the 2001 legislative session, but some communities have adopted ordinances that specifically target aggressive driving.
Careless Driving in Colorado
Under Colorado Statute Section 42-4-1402, a driver can be charged with careless driving for operating a motor vehicle “without due regard.” Careless driving is typically charged as a Class 2 misdemeanor in Colorado, and is punishable by up to one year in jail as well as fines ranging from $250 to $1,000.
However, if while driving carelessly, a driver causes an auto accident that injures or kills another person, the charge is elevated to a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 18 months in jail and fines of $500 up to $5,000.
Reckless Driving in Colorado
In Colorado, reckless driving is a slightly more serious offense than careless driving. Motorists may be charged with reckless driving in Colorado if they drive in a manner that indicates “wanton or willful disregard” for the safety of other people and property.
Reckless driving is typically considered a Class 2 misdemeanor in the state, punishable by up to one year in jail. A motorist convicted of reckless driving twice will serve no less than 10 days in jail and pay a minimum fine of $50.