Aggressive driving, also referred to as reckless driving, is more prevalent in the Bay Area than one may assume. According to The UC Berkeley Transportation Injury Mapping System (TIMS), the rate of fatal and severe crashes has reflected a notable increase. Overall, the U.S. has been experiencing an intense spike in traffic fatalities and serious injuries related to aggressive driving.
In a statement from The U.S. Division of Transportation (DOT), on May 16, 2022, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg expressed grave concerns and stressed the need for an urgent response to a “national crisis of fatalities and serious injuries on our road.”
Description and Examples of Aggressive Driving
Aggressive driving is often associated with rush-hour car wrecks; however, it may occur in residential neighborhoods just as frequently and result in harmful and sometimes lethal outcomes.
Aggressive manifestations may include, but are not limited to:
- Excessive speeding
- Failure to obey traffic signals (red light accidents)
- Failure to honor street signs
- Weaving in and out of lanes
- Cutting off drivers (often without signaling)
- Driving illegally on shoulders or driving on sidewalks
- Passing or attempting to pass vehicles in no-passing zones
- Failure to signal turns or lane changes
- Aggressive left turns
- Erratic lane changing
- Ignoring drivers or the signaling of others
- Driving in bike lanes or intimidating cyclists
- Disregarding “right of way”
- Exerting personal frustration on motorists
- Intentionally creating a hazardous merging situation
- Swerving (often repeatedly)
- Intimidation through aggressive acts or gestures
- Purposefully misusing auto horn to annoy, startle, or distract motorists
- Deliberately endangering motorcyclists
Dangerous Left Turns in the Bay Area
Being the fourth most congested city makes driving in San Francisco all the more dangerous. An increase in motorists on the roads translates to higher volumes of aggressive drivers and thus reduced time to safely maneuver challenging left turns. The results are difficult driving conditions, dangers to pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers, and ultimately, an increased risk for collisions, injuries, and fatalities.
Note: Research published by The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) in conjunction with The Vision Zero initiative discovered that nearly 40% of all traffic fatalities in San Francisco involved a left-turning vehicle. Stressful situations such as left turns in high traffic congestion can aggravate aggressive drivers and increase the likelihood of reckless driving.
Consequences of Aggressive Driving
In many cases, reckless driving offenses are attached to more severe charges like driving under the influence (DUI), hit-and-runs, street racing (illegal drag racing), and even vehicular manslaughter.
As part of California Vehicle Code Section 12810(b,c), the California Department of Motor Vehicles can impose two points on a driving record for reckless driving convictions. A reckless driving conviction may result in other costs, such as your insurance company raising your premiums or canceling your coverage altogether.
A reckless driving offense is considered a misdemeanor in California. Section 23103 of the California Vehicle Code defines the offense as driving “a vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.”
One can commit the act of reckless driving on a public road or in an off-street parking facility.
The consequences of such an offense under California Code Section 23103(c) are “persons convicted of the offense of reckless driving shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than five days nor more than 90 days or by a fine of not less than one $145 nor more than $1,000, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”
However, additional circumstances may lead to increased charges, including “wet” reckless driving (DUI and reckless driving) and even vehicular manslaughter.
Recommendations to consider if you come across an aggressive driver:
- Try to (safely) stay out of or leave the path of the aggressive driver.
- Avoid eye contact with the aggressive driver.
- Do not respond to or return gestures from an aggressive driver.
- Keep calm and avoid interactions with the aggressive driver.
- Ensure doors and windows are shut and locked
- Provide adequate room between yourself and the car ahead of you, whether at a red light or in stop-and-go traffic, or to pull out if needed.
- Call 911 over safety concerns for yourself and other drivers.
When an aggressive driver causes an injury or accident
In the event of an accident or injury caused by a reckless driver, you should contact an experienced San Francisco Bay area accident and injury attorney. You have the right to hold a driver responsible for injuries suffered due to an aggressive driver or related-wrongful death.