It's a term that originated back in the 1980s and an issue that cast a layer of fear over the nation's highways throughout the next decade. Not only did Americans have to worry about accidents and roadway headaches (ex. tailgating, dangerous merging, etc.), we had to worry about the threat of violence due to an angry driver. Coined in Los Angeles, the very term "road rage" frightened people across the nation and, despite wide disagreement about what actually counted as a road rage incident, seemed to be a new epidemic. While use of the term seemed to fade over time, road rage remains a danger, and our Panama City road rage victims' lawyer remains ready to help those who are injured or lose a loved one as a result of an angry, aggressive traveler.
The News Herald reported on a tragic end to a road rage incident that occurred last month in Jackson County. According to officials from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, this past Wednesday morning 56-year-old Terry Joe Gibbs of North Carolina succumbed to injuries incurred in a shooting in Marianna. Gibbs died at Bay Medical Center Sacred Heart Health System. The Sheriff's Office also announced the arrest of Kevin Denkevitz on charges of shooting into an occupied vehicle and aggravated assault with a firearm, as well as the arrest or Craig Matthew Frederickson on charges of burglary of an occupied conveyance, including battery and criminal mischief over $200. Both men are also from North Carolina.
Jackson County investigators determined that Gibbs, Denkevitz, and Frederickson were all riding motorcycles when they were involved in a road rage incident with a motorist along Interstate 10 on June 17. Following the initial event, there was an altercation at a Sunoco gas station located along State 71 in Marianna. Gunshots were fired into a motor vehicle, which then collided with Gibbs' motorcycle, leading to his hospitalization and eventual death.
Per the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, "[r]oad rage is defined as violent or visibly angry behavior by a driver of a motor vehicle which can result in crashes or other incidents on roadways." The Department also calls road rage a more extreme form of aggressive driving, while other groups note that aggressive driving can (although by no means always) give rise to true road rage. Either offense is dangerous and can involve driving behaviors, such as cutting in front of another vehicle and then hitting the brakes, or other violent acts like threatening or using physical violence.
A recent piece of legislation, aimed at drivers who drive slowly in the left lane (see Florida Times-Union article), has been praised as an attempt to fight road rage. Driving too slow can definitely be a hazard to everyone on the road, particularly a highway, but there is never an excuse for road rage or for aggressive driving. We urge drivers to get out of the way if another driver appears to be becoming violent or otherwise engaging in aggressive behaviors, but it is also important to refrain from blaming the victims. While the case discussed above is complex and much remains to be learned, it is a reminder that road rage can be deadly. In recognition of the danger of such behavior, road rage and aggressive driving can give rise to a number of criminal charges as well as, in appropriate cases, civil liability.
If you've been injured due to road rage or aggressive driving in Panama City or elsewhere in Northwest Florida, please call our firm.