Aggressive Driving State Penalties: What to Know

Skirting traffic laws might be tempting when you're in a hurry. But, you may be engaging in dangerous acts of aggressive driving. In many states, there are penalties for driving aggressively. Here's an explanation of what aggressive driving is and what some states are doing about it.

What Is Aggressive Driving?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as engaging in multiple acts of risky driving. These acts include:

  • Speeding

  • Swerving in traffic

  • Tailgating

  • Running stop signs and traffic lights

You've probably heard the term "road rage." It is related to aggressive driving. Aggressive driving can escalate into road rage when a driver commits violent acts against another driver. These angry acts can include verbal fights, assault, and, in rare cases, murder. There is a distinction between aggressive driving and road rage. Aggressive driving is a traffic violation, and road rage is a crime.

One challenge with aggressive driving is recognizing it when it happens. Many people might be driving aggressively and not think they are doing anything wrong. For example, speeding and weaving in traffic during rush hour might normal to many drivers, but it's aggressive and dangerous. Veering to get ahead in traffic and passing on the right could lead to an accident. 

Dangers of Aggressive Driving

Driving without regard to safety laws is a major cause of fatal accidents. If drivers followed traffic rules and avoided aggressive driving, everyone would be safer.

You may be surprised to learn that speeding is more dangerous than driving under the influence. Speeding was the leading factor associated with fatal crashes in 2019. Speeding was related to 17.2% of all fatal accidents for that year. In contrast, driving under the influence was associated with 10.1% of fatal accidents in 2019.

What States Are Doing to Address Aggressive Driving

Communities across the U.S. use different methods to catch aggressive drivers. These methods include hiring police to check roadways and traffic lights. Many states also use automated systems such as cameras, which track those who speed or run red lights.

Most states forbid reckless driving, careless driving, and specific acts such as speeding or running a red light. In total, fifteen states have passed special laws around aggressive driving. That said, their penalties vary widely. Below is a summary of which states specifically penalize aggressive driving. Keep in mind, this doesn't mean aggressive driving is legal in other states. It just may be classified as separate offenses.

States With Imprisonment and Fines for Aggressive Driving

California, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Nevada, and North Carolina include possible jail time for aggressive driving offenses. Maximum penalties range from 45 days in North Carolina to four years in California. Many of these states have instituted fines of up to $5,000.

States With License Suspension for Aggressive Driving

Arizona, California, Delaware, Nevada, Utah, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. will suspend drivers' licenses for aggressive driving. Washington, D.C. mandates drivers to enroll in traffic school or they will lose their licenses.

States With No Mandated Penalties for Aggressive Driving

Florida and Pennsylvania have passed laws, but they don't have mandatory penalties for aggressive driving. This means your penalty may vary depending on the severity of the offense.

Aggressive Driving Isn't Worth It

In conclusion, you have more to lose than to gain in engaging in aggressive driving. Such driving practices put you and others at risk for serious or even fatal injury. Breaking traffic laws also can lead to severe penalties, including jail time.

Do you want to drive with more confidence and avoid unsafe practices like aggressive driving? Improve your driving skills with in-class driving lessons.

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