Road Rage – A Calmer Perspective in the Cold Light of Day

With congested roads, rush hour traffic and the pressures of life, it’s no wonder we read about many contra temps on the road between drivers, ranging from a heated exchange of words to violent sometimes fatal assaults.

A road traffic solicitor becomes involved when the manner of driving becomes an issue. On many occasions a road rage incident leads to either or both drivers driving standards to deteriorate. As one driver cuts up the other, or persistently tailgates the other, or chases after him – when a loss of temper kicks in, all safe driving considerations can be left far behind.

Road Traffic offences that are available for prosecution in road rage cases are:

1 speeding

2 careless driving

3 dangerous driving

4 racing and pacing

5 causing death by careless driving

6 causing death by dangerous driving


This charge would be relevant in a situation where a driver has tried to catch up with another driver or has sped off after an attack. Proof of that speed is difficult and will usually require the police to have measured the speed with a speed gun or by following directly behind the vehicle for at least 0.2 of a mile. In other words the police must have witnessed the incident and be able to react in the above way.

Careless Driving

This charge reflects a standard of driving that amounts to driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users. It can amount to driving through a puddle to splash other motorists or pedestrians, to deliberately annoying other drivers such as tail gating or driving erratically in front of another driver. It’s not enough for the driver simply to follow another driver for a sustained period or distance, there has to be an element of bad driving involved which is careless or inconsiderate such as driving too close to the vehicle when following it. Following a vehicle alone could amount to a separate non road traffic offence however.

Dangerous Driving

This is obviously a more serious level of bad driving and will be determined on its own facts and circumstances. Examples are where a driver has tailgated very closely at speed or in bad weather conditions or where he has deliberately attempted to drive his vehicle directly act another motorist. This can also amount to an assault if it can be established that the accused deliberately attempted to attack the motorist with his vehicle. Even if there was no deliberate attack, if there is enough evidence to establish that the behaviour was deliberately reckless a charge of culpable and reckless behaviour could follow.

Racing and Pacing

This is an offence for which there is a specific provision in the Road Traffic Act 1988 It is difficult to prove racing for a number of reasons. It is a contest between 2 or more people but in most situations when 2 cars seem to be racing each other it is difficult to ascertain which of the two drivers if any is actually racing the other i.e. driving behind it or overtaking it with the intention of getting ahead with or without the expectation of the other driver engaging in the same conduct. Also there could be a straight forward situation of driver A is just driving fast when driver B catches up and drives level with A to cajole him into racing. By doing nothing it cannot be said that driver A has engaged in racing or pacing with driver B. Evidence has to establish that A deliberately engaged in a race. Such evidence can come from the fact that it had been planned previously or it can be inferred from a spontaneous decision to race. Because of these difficulties such cases are usually prosecuted as dangerous driving or careless driving charges.

Causing Death by Dangerous Driving:

This is the extreme end of a road rage incident and thankfully is very rare. If the crown prosecution is of the view that the manner of driving was deliberately done to kill someone or carried out with such wicked recklessness so as to demonstrate a complete lack of care as to whether a person died, then it will be prosecuted in the High court for murder. If it can be established that the vehicle was used as a weapon to assault someone which led to their death a charge of culpable homicide would be appropriate. Only if there is no evidence of this will the charge be one of causing death by dangerous driving which in most cases will also result in a prison sentence.

Where the case involves the loss of control of a vehicle very often a road traffic reconstruction analysis requires to be carried out using the data available from the resultant position of the motor vehicles involved, the level of deformation of the vehicles and tyre marks and other marks left on the road. Using sophisticated software this information can be analysed to determine the speed of the vehicles and the point of collision which could significantly determine the level of culpability. A road traffic solicitor should work closely with this process in the investigation of a client’s defence.

A road rage case can however be prosecuted as a road traffic case but it is essentially a breach of the peace or assault. A road traffic solicitor is able to focus on the manner of driving and separate the anti social behaviour from the actual driving which may not amount to anything at all.

It is essential therefore to contact a road traffic solicitor at the earliest opportunity to safe guard your best interests – and your driving licence.

The minute you are aware that suspicion may crystallize on you, legal advice must be taken immediately.