Road Rage is a very real thing. And cyclists are some of the most exposed users of roadways, highways, and streets. This article and next week’s article will address Road Rage under Ohio law and discusses recourse available to assaulted cyclists based on a real-world case that Steve Magas and I brought to a favorable conclusion last year.
Road Rage Defined
The United States Department of Transportation draws a technical distinction between “aggressive driving” and “road rage.” The words, “aggressive driving,” emerged during the 1990s as a label for a category of dangerous on-the-road behaviors. The category comprises following too closely, driving at excessive speeds, weaving through traffic, and running stoplights and signs, among other acts. Aggressive driving occasionally escalates to gesturing in anger or yelling at another motorist, confrontation, physical assault, and even murder; “Road Rage” is the label that emerged to describe the angry and violent behaviors at the extreme of the aggressive driving continuum. NHTSA defines aggressive driving in DOT HS 809 707 as, “the operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property.” An important distinction is that aggressive driving is a traffic violation, while road rage, aside from yelling and gesticulating, is a criminal offense.
Fortunately, assault cases against cyclists appear to be statistically rare. So rare that I could not find a database that tracked this type of crime against cyclists in particular. However, these incidents do happen and are likely vastly underreported.
Road Rage Statistics
Per a 2019 survey conducted by thezebra.com, survey respondents admitted the following:
- 82% of drivers in the U.S. admit to having road rage or driving aggressively at least once in the past year.
- 59% of drivers reported showing anger by honking.
- 45% of drivers report changing lanes without signaling.
- 42% of drivers claimed they have yelled or cursed loudly at another driver.
- 38% said they have used rude or obscene gestures against other drivers.
That same 2019 survey found:
- 7% got out of their vehicle to verbally confront another driver.
- 6% threw objects.
- 6% got in a physical altercation with another driver.
- 5% sideswiped another vehicle.
- 5% bumped or rammed another vehicle on purpose.
- 5% forced another driver off the road.
Road Rage Against Cyclists – Criminal Recourse
For cyclists, the predominant form of Road Rage would likely fall into the category of a “Punishment Pass” wherein the motorist gives much less than the three-foot buffer required by Revised Code 4511.27 in Ohio and KRS 189.290 in Kentucky. In addition, cyclists can be subjected to pop (or soda pending on what part of the country the cyclist finds him or herself) cans or beer cans being thrown at them. I personally have been subject to Punishment Passes. In addition, I have had partially full Two-Liter Pop Bottles thrown at me by irate passengers.
All of these activities violate Ohio law.
R.C. 2903.11(A) defines Felonious Assault as:
(A) No person shall knowingly do either of the following:
(1) Cause serious physical harm to another or to another’s unborn;
(2) Cause or attempt to cause physical harm to another or to another’s unborn by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance.
R.C. 2903.21 defines Aggravated Menacing as:
(A) No person shall knowingly cause another to believe that the offender will cause serious physical harm to the person or property of the other person, the other person’s unborn, or a member of the other person’s immediate family. In addition to any other basis for the other person’s belief that the offender will cause serious physical harm to the person or property of the other person, the other person’s unborn, or a member of the other person’s immediate family, the other person’s belief may be based on words or conduct of the offender that are directed at or identify a corporation, association, or other organization that employs the other person or to which the other person belongs.
A True Story of Road Rage
The nightmare scenario is where one of these incidents escalates into an assault. And that is exactly the scenario one of my clients found himself in while enjoying a 40-mile ride in rural Ohio.
As the matter is now settled and subject to a narrow confidentiality agreement, I will simply reveal that John Doe Cyclist was body checked into the criminal assailant’s truck following a hand gesture that was shared with said criminal after Joe Doe Cyclist was subjected to a Punishment Pass.
Unfortunately, this was one of those 7% scenarios where the motorist got out of his truck to verbally confront my client and his wife. That confrontation escalated into physical contact that resulted in a fractured elbow requiring multiple surgeries at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars.
That matter was criminally tried to a jury. On the second day of trial, the criminal assailant opted to take a plea deal that avoided significant jail time. In open Court he admitted under oath to a felonious assault charge against our client and a menacing charge (as to his wife) as part of his plea deal.
In the civil suit, the criminal assailant denied the assault and menacing admissions entered under oath as part of his plea deal. The criminal assailant claimed that my client was the aggressor, and he was the victim! He claimed that he was simply acting in self-defense and my client was fabricating the allegations.
Our assaulted client, John Doe, had a civil remedy and next week’s article will discuss a unique application of Ohio law to Road Rage cases.