Cyclists Facing Road Rage

As far as the law is concerned, bicycles are vehicles and bicyclists have as much right to the road as any motor vehicle driver. Yet the raw vitriol and rage displayed by some drivers for cyclists is very real and can be very dangerous. Some refer to it as “bike rage.”

While drivers tend to blame cyclists for crashes, research has established that most bicycle vs. vehicle accidents in Boston and elsewhere occur when a driver doesn’t see the cyclist and/or fails to yield the right-of-way.

The bike accident lawyers at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman's BikeAttorney.com represent victims of aggressive drivers. In some cases, cyclists who were harmed as a result of road rage may be entitled to additional damages. Cases have to be approached with caution, however, because most auto insurance companies will not cover “intentional acts.” So if a driver intentionally plows into a group of riders or runs a cyclist off the road, insurance may not cover those injuries, but there may be alternatives for recovery of damages, including seeking criminal prosecution against the driver. The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman's BikeAttorneys will help you through this process. That’s why it’s important for you to consult with us.

What is Aggressive Driving?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as a combination of moving traffic offenses that is intended to endanger other people or their property.

Some examples include:

  • Speeding/ traveling too fast for conditions
  • Tailgating
  • Racing
  • Driving in improper lane (traveling too slow in the passing lane)
  • Failing to observe traffic signs
  • Illegal actions at intersections (blocking the bike lane or bike box)
  • Deliberately swerving into the path of a cyclist
  • Improper lane changing and lane signaling
  • Seeking confrontation with other drivers/ bicyclist (i.e., excessive honking, verbal abuse, threats)

A single act of aggression by one driver can trigger escalating responses from other drivers. This kind of “competition” with a cyclist can be deadly because cyclists are vulnerable road users. They aren’t protected by a mass of metal surrounding them.

What Causes Road Rage?

There are many theories on this, but it is generally recognized as a psychological condition experienced by a wide range of individuals, some of whom are usually very mild-mannered and even-tempered.

Psychology Today opines some of the possible driving forces:

  • The need for control;
  • The need to counter others whom they feel violate their proximate space;
  • The need for possession of their lane or their part of the road;
  • Unchecked aggression (i.e., lack of emotional intelligence, hormone-based);
  • Unchecked ego (i.e., narcissistic pride, one-upmanship).

As it specifically pertains to bicyclists, some researchers say the problem is the perception that cyclists are offending the social and moral order of the road – even though they legally have every right to be there. Driving is a moral activity – there are many rules (legal and informal), and it works only insofar as people follow them (i.e., stay in your lane, indicate your turn, first your turn, then mine, then hers). Then there are bicyclists, who still follow the rules of the road, but are an entirely different species of vehicle. They move well below the speed limit. They may have separate lanes, but can also ride in the motor vehicle lane of travel. They often have the right-of-way. They are allowed to ride to the right of traffic. They have a much smaller profile. Some drivers see bicycles as throwing off the “order” of traffic, and feel it necessary to “correct” these behaviors. In many cases, drivers misunderstand the law and they aren’t used to sharing the road.

These issues can be further compounded when there is a traffic congestion, inclement weather or other conditions that can make driving stressful or frustrating. In Boston particularly, motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians are all competing for the same narrow sliver of space.

Of course, none of this justifies aggressive driving or rudeness. But by working to understand it, we can work to address it.

Aggressive Driving Laws

To date, 15 states have passed laws that address aggressive driving in their legislatures, and of those, 11 specifically define aggressive driving actions. However, Massachusetts is not among them. However, police can still cite or arrest drivers who engage in certain aggressive actions. Anyone who uses their vehicle as a means to attack someone – cyclist or otherwise – could potentially be facing a charge of aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon, Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. Ch. 265, Section 15B.

Still, a criminal conviction won’t necessarily result in restitution, so it won’t help an injured cyclist recover losses for medical expenses and lost wages. That’s where we can help.

Avoiding Aggressive Drivers

The Massachusetts Driver’s Manual says worst thing to do if confronted by aggressive drivers is to fight back. This can escalate the situation and put you in serious peril.

So what can you do? Take these steps:

  • Try your best to get out of the person’s way, if you can do so safely.
  • Do not challenge the person.
  • Avoid making eye contact.
  • Ignore rude gestures.
  • Give them the benefit of the doubt (not all driver behavior is directed toward you).
  • Report an aggressive driver to police.

If you are injured in a bike rage incident in Massachusetts, contact our offices today to learn more about how we can help.

Contact the Boston Bicycle Accident Lawyers at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman's BikeAttorney.com.