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  • What Is the Difference Between Aggressive Driving and Road Rage?

    Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

    While driving on American roads and highways, minor traffic violations can often escalate into violent or threatening situations. Such events may cause you to wonder, What is the difference between aggressive driving and road rage? Although aggressive driving is usually considered a traffic violation, road rage can lead to criminal charges as it poses a risk to public safety. Knowing the difference between the two is important, especially if you find yourself facing related charges.

    What Is Aggressive Driving?

    Aggressive driving includes a range of behaviors that usually stem from impatience, frustration, or feeling slighted by another driver. Examples of aggressive driving include:

    • Speeding,
    • Tailgating,
    • Improper lane changes,
    • Ignoring traffic signals, or
    • Cutting off other drivers.

    While aggressive driving is dangerous and can lead to accidents, it’s generally considered to be only a traffic offense that could result in fines, license points, or mandatory driving courses.

    What Is Road Rage?

    Road rage is a more extreme form of aggressive driving that involves violent or threatening behavior directed at other drivers, pedestrians, or property. This behavior can include:

    • Intentionally ramming another vehicle,
    • Throwing objects at other vehicles,
    • Shouting or making obscene gestures,
    • Following another car closely in a threatening manner, and
    • Blocking another vehicle from passing.

    Road rage situations pose serious risks to public safety and are taken seriously by law enforcement due to their potential for causing harm.

    Is Aggressive Driving a Criminal Offense?

    Aggressive driving is typically treated as a civil traffic offense and does not rise to the level of a crime. While the consequences can be significant, including fines and potential license points, it does not carry the same weight as criminal charges.

    Road Rage vs. Aggressive Driving: What’s the Difference?

    At first glance, road rage and aggressive driving may appear to be the same thing, but they are two distinct types of behavior. The primary difference between the two is their level of intent and severity. 

    Aggressive driving typically results from impatience, frustration, or poor judgment. However, it does not necessarily involve a desire to cause harm to others. Although aggressive driving is dangerous, it is less likely to cause harm than road rage.

    Road rage is characterized by anger and hostility and is a deliberate attempt to intimidate, threaten, or even harm another person. This behavior is significantly more severe and likely to cause harm than aggressive driving.

    Civil vs. Criminal Charges

    Unlike aggressive driving, road rage incidents can result in criminal charges, ranging from assault to reckless endangerment. These crimes can be punishable by fines, jail time, and even driver’s license suspension. 

    However, keep in mind that certain actions classified as aggressive driving may escalate to criminal behavior if they result in harm or endanger the safety of others. For instance, if aggressive driving leads to a serious accident, charges could be upgraded to offenses like reckless driving or aggravated assault, which carry criminal penalties.

    Road Rage FAQs

    Does New Mexico Have a Road Rage Law?

    While New Mexico doesn’t have a specific road rage law, the state takes reckless and aggressive driving seriously. Actions like tailgating, speeding, cutting someone off, or making threatening gestures can all land you in legal hot water. These acts can be considered reckless driving, a misdemeanor punishable by:

    • Fines of up to $100 for the first offense and up to $1,000 for subsequent offenses,
    • Incarceration for 5 to 90 days for the first offense and up to 6 months for subsequent offenses, and
    • Driver’s license suspension or revocation of 90 days to a year.

    In addition to reckless driving charges, you could face other criminal charges, including assault, aggravated assault, battery, and criminal damage.

    Can I Lose My Driver’s License?

    Yes, the Motor Vehicle Division of New Mexico has the authority to suspend the license of any driver found guilty of reckless driving for up to 90 days. A conviction for reckless driving will also result in the addition of six points to your driving record. Your license may be suspended if you accumulate seven or more points within a year.

    Can I Be Sued for Road Rage?

    Yes, if you’re accused of road rage and your actions caused someone else harm, you could face a civil lawsuit. You could be financially liable for any injuries or property damage. This is why it’s crucial to be aware of the risks associated with road rage and avoid any dangerous behavior behind the wheel.

    What Can I Do to Prevent Road Rage?

    There are several things you can do to avoid being involved in road rage or aggressive driving  incidents, including the following:

    • Plan ahead and give yourself enough time for your journey;
    • Keep calm and avoid tailgating or other aggressive driving behaviors;
    • Follow traffic rules and use your turn signals when needed;
    • Show courtesy to other drivers on the road; and
    • If you feel frustrated or angry, take a few deep breaths and try to relax.

    The road is a shared space, and we can make it safer by being patient and respectful to each other.

    How Can I Fight the Charges?

    The criminal law system is complex and can be intimidating to navigate. If you’ve been charged with a crime related to road rage, it’s crucial to consult with an attorney. They can help you understand the charges you face and your options.  

    However, even without a lawyer, you can take steps to fight the charges:

    • Gather evidence, including any dashcam footage or witness statements;
    • Don’t talk to the police without an attorney present;
    • Be calm and cooperative with the judge; and
    • Attend all court hearings.

    Even if you are not prepared to hire an attorney, consulting one about your case can significantly increase your chances of getting a successful outcome.

    Facing Charges for a Related Offense and Unsure of What to Do Next?

    If you are facing charges related to aggressive driving and wondering what to do next, contact the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices. We provide complimentary case evaluations to help you explore your options. With over 20 years of experience and a proven track record of success in handling complex criminal cases, our team can provide you with the expert guidance and support you need during this challenging time. Call today, and we will begin the process of protecting your rights.