We’ve all encountered an aggressive driver at some point on Seattle roads. Perhaps we’ve even been that driver. Someone who honks their horn, speeds, tailgates, weaves perilously in and out of traffic or sails through stop signs or traffic signals.
Many times, aggressive drivers are in a hurry. Sometimes, they seek to display dominance. Increasing congestion on the roads in recent years doesn’t help.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports aggressive driving plays a role in more than half of all fatal crashes, with excessive speed being the No. 1 factor, accounting for 19 percent of all drivers and motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes. Summer often brings an uptick of aggressive driving and road rage incidents, partially due to the fact that it’s hotter and partially because there tend to be more cars on the road.
Car accident lawyers in Seattle know that these kinds of cases can be tricky, particularly those involving road rage, because there are often exclusions in auto insurance liability policies when damage is intentionally inflicted by the insured. So for example, an insurer may agree to cover damages resulting from a speeding driver who failed to yield the right-of-way, but they may not cover damages if there is evidence the driver intentionally carried out these actions (i.e., was waving an obscene gesture at the time they cut off another driver).
That’s why motorists need to be very careful about what they say at the crash scene. Consulting with an experienced attorney is typically the best way to maximize your chances of recovering damages.
The Washington State Patrol defines aggressive driving as the commission of two or more moving violations likely to endanger other persons or property or a single intentional violation that requires the defensive reaction of another driver. Road rage, meanwhile, is an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by an operator or passenger of a motor vehicle toward another passenger or operator of a vehicle based on an incident that occurred on the road.
Washington state does not have a specific “aggressive driving” statute. However, RCW 46.61.500 outlines the offense of reckless driving. It is defined as when a person who drives a vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. A violation is considered a gross misdemeanor, for which one can face up to 364 days in jail plus a $5,000 fine. One may also be subject to a suspended license, for a minimum of 30 days. Further, a person who committed reckless driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (or if the original charge was DUI and was later pleaded down to reckless driving) can be required to have ignition interlock devices installed on all vehicles operated by the person.
The statute asserts that excessive speed can be used as prima facie evidence of reckless driving, as is racing on public highway. RCW 46.61.665 prohibits “embracing another while driving,” which is also considered another form of reckless driving.
If you do encounter aggressive drivers, it’s important not to challenge them and to keep your distance. If you are injured by an aggressive driver in Seattle, our experienced car accident lawyers can help you navigate the legal system.