As Dr. Johnson's testing and surveys have concluded, and provided statistical data in support of his conjectures; aggressive driving will lead to assault depending upon how the driver who triggers the road rager's emotional response responds to that aggressive behavior.
The DOT does acknowledge the need to address aggressive driving, and has strong recommendations concerning the penalties for the offense. The DOT makes recommendations in six areas with statutory strategies (Statutory Strategies, online):
Strengthen existing statutes to include stricter penalties. Repeat offenders should receive enhanced punishment, including increased points, loss of license, higher fines, and jail sentences or probation.
2. Establish comprehensive education programs that address aggressive driving and include them as part of legislative changes. At a minimum, include aggressive driving education in public and private driver education programs. States should also consider anger management education as a supplement to other sanctions when making legislative changes.
3. Develop statutes that match the severity of the offense to its punishment to send a clear message that aggressive driving is a serious offense.
a. Assess significant "points" on an offender's driving record for violations.
b. Include suspension or revocation of driving privileges as part of any proposed statute, for they are effective deterrents.
4. Address aggressive driving that results in death or serious injury as a felony. Add enhanced penalties to existing reckless driving laws and new statutes, defining "serious injury" according to State laws. Felony offenses require that one of the elements of the statute reference the required mental state of the driver (i.e., wanton or willful disregard for consequences) to meet constitutional muster.
5. Provide State and Federal assistance to law enforcement agencies to help defray costs and provide support for retraining in new reckless driving (or aggressive driving) statutes.
a. Provide enhanced training for identifying, recording, arresting, and prosecuting the aggressive driver.
b. Develop a workshop to encourage law enforcement to target moving hazardous violations, particularly those commonly associated with aggressive driving behavior, and to recruit trainers to deliver this workshop.
c. Encourage use of Federal highway safety funds administered by the States for aggressive driving countermeasure training.
d. Encourage statutes that permit in-court and out-of-court use of new technology in traffic-related cases.
e. Use technology to gather evidence of aggressive or reckless driving, showing a clear violation of the appropriate statute. Obtain legislative authority for sharing this information nationwide, and evaluate technological improvements.
6. Adopt the Model Statute developed by the Implementation Team to enact or improve States' reckless driving statutes, including aggressive driving under "Reckless Driving: Aggravated Reckless Driving."6 The model is as follows:
a. A person who operates any motor vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property commits the offense of reckless driving. "Willful or wanton" means the deliberate, conscious indifference to the safety of persons or property. Proof of evil or malicious intent is not an element of reckless driving.
b. Upon the trial of any civil or criminal action or proceeding stemming from acts alleged to have been committed by any person operating a motor vehicle, proof that in the course of a continuous driving episode, such person committed three moving violations, either alone or in combination with one another, shall give rise to an inference that the vehicle was being operated with a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. Such inference shall not be conclusive, but shall be considered along with all other evidence in determining whether a violation occurred (see sidebar below).
c. All persons convicted of reckless driving shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, except as provided under subsection (d), which follows.
d. All persons convicted of committing a violation of subsection (a) above shall be guilty of aggravated reckless driving if the violation results in injury or permanent disability or disfigurement of another person. Aggravated reckless driving is a felony.
We can see by the recommendations that the DOT is being aggressive in how it would like to deal with the problem of aggressive driving. This is a proactive approach to reducing the number of deaths that occur each year as a result of aggressive driving.
Unfortunately, there is little statistical data to help us understand how pre-teens and teens to age 18 are responding to aggressive driving training. There is also not enough data on aggressive driving to provide statistical data in support of the idea that teens would comprise a large segment of arrests made for aggressive driving. This information is badly needed, because it would provide valuable insight into the need for training and education of young people about aggressive driving. Without the studies to generate the data, we have no idea of how big a problem this is for our nation's teens.
The DOT makes recommendations for involving the community in taking action against aggressive driving (Community Leadership, online). They recommend the local chapters of business organizations, and alliances between the public and law enforcement, not unlike the DARE program. This would go a long way towards impacting the knowledge of pre-teens and teens as they become licensed drivers. It does not, however, address the lack of studies that are necessary to support these kinds of programs. There is a dire need for government funding for studies as they relate to teens and aggressive driving. Only then can we begin to build programs, like DARE, with the complete and necessary information for presentation in a way that teens would benefit from, and respect.
Larson, J. And Rodriguez, C., 1999, Road Rage to Road Wise, Tom Doherty Associates,
New York, NY.
ROARR, 2009, found online at http://roarrinc.bizopiaweb.com/Default.aspx?tabid=231442, retrieved 10 December 2009.
U.S. Department of Transportation (2009), National Aggressive…