Is Road Rage a Criminal Offense?

In America, road rage describes the, “violent anger caused by the stress and frustration involved in driving a motor vehicle in difficult conditions.” The term was coined by anchors at KTLA – Los Angeles during a series of road rage incidents involving freeway shootings between 1987 and 1988. In fact, these shootings even generated a response from AAA (“Triple A”) on how to respond to angry drivers.

While shooting someone is obviously an extreme case of road rage and is a criminal offense, is road rage itself a criminal act?

Does Michigan have laws against road rage? 

Currently, the state of Michigan doesn’t have a law that defines “road rage,” according to the Michigan State Police. However, the concept of road rage may be applied to two statutes in the Michigan Vehicle Code:

Careless Driving

According to MCL 257.626b, careless driving occurs when:

“A person who operates a vehicle upon a highway or a frozen public lake, stream, or pond or other place open to the general public including an area designated for the parking of vehicles in a careless or negligent manner likely to endanger any person or property, but without wantonness or recklessness, is responsible for a civil infraction.”

Careless driving is subject to three points added onto one’s driving record by the Secretary of State. While the civil infraction cost depends on the county, it typically falls in the range of $164–$205 for a first-time traffic offense.

Reckless Driving

According to MCL 257.626, reckless driving occurs when:

“(1) A person who violates this section is guilty of reckless driving punishable as provided in this section.

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(2) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person who operates a vehicle upon a highway or a frozen public lake, stream, or pond or other place open to the general public, including, but not limited to, an area designated for the parking of motor vehicles, in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.”

Careless driving is subject to six points added onto one’s driving record by the Secretary of State. As of Oct. 31st, 2010, a person who operates a vehicle in violation of (2) that causes serious bodily injury is guilty of a felony punishable up to 5 years in jail time, a fine between $1,000$5,000, or both.

Additionally, a person whose operation of a vehicle causes the death of another person is guilty of a felony punishable up to 15 years in prison, a fine between $2,500–$10,000, or both.

The judge presiding may impose vehicle forfeiture (625n). However, if the vehicle is not ordered forfeited, the court may order vehicle immobilization instead for a person convicted of reckless driving.

What is the difference between careless driving and reckless driving?

According to the Michigan State Police, careless driving typically comprises of multiple hazardous violations that are unsafe, negligent and committed in the same instance. However, the driver doesn’t need to show intent to damage property or injure someone, or even the knowledge that their driving is unsafe. A driver who tailgates another driver could be considered a careless driver.

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However, reckless driving is an intentional crime. With this offense, the aggressive driver is aware of their unsafe actions, but continues doing them anyway. A driver who speeds, “bobs and weaves” throughout traffic, cuts off traffic and uses the shoulder to pass could be considered a reckless driver. There are criminal charges associated with reckless driving.

Contact an attorney for your reckless driving charge

Reckless driving is an offense that can have serious repercussions on your license, career, family, and mental wellbeing. Our team of experienced criminal defense attorneys has proven success in this area of law, and can help you with your charge today. Contact the Law Offices of Barton Morris at (248) 541-2600 for your free consultation.