Is Road Rage Illegal in Washington?

While there is no law against road rage in Washington State, there are laws targeting aggressive driving behaviors like speeding or tailgating. In other words, someone driving recklessly could face serious consequences.

In our post today, we’ll highlight some specific laws that could apply to a road rage incident. Also, we’ll provide some specific steps you can take to de-escalate or report an incident in progress.

What is the Difference Between Aggressive Driving and Road Rage?

While we often hear the terms “aggressive driving” and “road rage” used interchangeable, there are some key differences.

Aggressive driving includes reckless behaviors that put others at danger. Often, an aggressive driver is an impatient driver who is willing to disregard traffic laws. Some examples include:

Road rage happens when aggressive driving escalates. Usually, the angry driver “snaps” and targets another driver. These situations can quickly become very dangerous. A car in the hands of an unhinged driver can become a deadly weapon. We’ve also all heard of stories where firearms become involved.

Road Rage Incidents are on the Rise in Washington State

Unfortunately, road rage incidents have steadily increased in Washington State. In fact, a recent Forbes study ranks Washington as the 9th worst state for most confrontational drivers.

Consider some of these startling stories:

  • A man threw a hammer through a car’s window in Seattle, WA after a scuffle about merging.
  • In Federal Way, a road rage incident ended in a deadly shooting when both drivers exited their vehicles and engaged in a fight.
  • A man ended up with life-altering injuries after being shot in a road rage incident in SeaTac.

These days, it seems commonplace to hear about road rage incidents including road rage shootings on the news.

Washington State Laws that Could Apply to Road Rage

While there is no law against road rage per se in Washington State, there are many laws that deal with aggressive driving behaviors. If a person engages in reckless driving, they can absolutely be ticketed or even charged with a crime.

The table below lists some of the key laws about reckless driving in the State of Washington.

RCWRCW TitleBasic Summary
RCW 46.61.145Following too closely – vulnerable users of a public way – fine.You cannot tailgate.
RCW 46.61.400Basic rule and maximum limits.You cannot speed.
RCW 46.61.465Exceeding speed limit evidence of reckless driving.If you’re found speeding, it can be used as evidence that you were driving recklessly.
RCW 46.61.500Reckless driving – penalty.You can be charged with a gross misdemeanor. You can face other consequences such as license suspension.
RCW 46.61.502Driving under the influence.It’s illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
RCW 46.61.520Vehicular homicide – penalty.If a driver was being reckless or under the influence, this could be a Class A felony.
RCW 46.61.522Vehicular assault- penalty.If a driver was being reckless or under the influence, this could be a Class B felony.
RCW 46.61.530Vehicular assault- penalty.If a driver was being reckless or under the influence, this could be a Class B felony.

How to Report a Road Rage Incident

What should you do if you’ve observed a road rage incident? You should call 911 to report it to the Washington State Patrol. Calling 911 may alert police to apprehend the driver and save lives.

Typically, it’s illegal in Washington to use your phone while driving (RCW 46.61.672). However, this is one of those emergency situations that provides an exception to that law. (Even better if you can use it hands free or have a passenger call.) Be prepared to provide key information such as:

  • Vehicle type and color
  • License plate number
  • Direction of travel
  • What happened
  • If weapons are involved

For more information on reporting aggressive driving, see the WSP website.

How to Stop Road Rage from Escalating

We will all encounter an aggressive driver on the road from time to time. Taking certain steps can help prevent you from becoming a victim of road rage.

  1. Remain calm. Take a deep breath. Keep your emotions in check.
  2. Give space. If possible, signal, move over, and allow the driver to pass.
  3. Avoid eye contact. Do not engage with the other driver in any way.
  4. Remain in your vehicle. Do not allow the other driver to coerce you out of your car. Keep your doors locked.

Remember, if you feel you are experiencing an emergency, call 911.

For more advice on this topic, be sur to read our post on what to do if you encounter an aggressive driver.

When Road Rage Results in a Collision

Have you found our post today because you were injured as a result of a road rage incident? Please call our WA car accident attorneys today. There’s no cost for an initial conversation. Plus, we only charge a fee if we’re able to win you a settlement.

We’re happy to answer all the questions you have.

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