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When does road rage become a crime?

Some Marylanders who are otherwise nonviolent, law-abiding citizens can be driven to a level of anger and frustration they didn't think they had in them when they encounter an aggressive, dangerous, incompetent or rude driver. We know the resulting behavior as "road rage."

Road rage can take many forms. Unfortunately, it too often escalates to violence -- sometimes deadly violence. While "road rage" itself isn't a criminal charge, common behaviors associated with are crimes.

Even if your road rage doesn't escalate to trying to harm someone, behavior such as swearing at someone from your car, making obscene gestures, waving a gun or tailgating them can be considered harassment, particularly if you follow another driver and continue the behavior. Aside from landing you under arrest, it's a dangerous form of distracted driving.

Road rage often involves assault. One car bumps into another or perhaps a driver takes a parking spot someone was waiting for. For whatever reason, both drivers get out of their vehicles and punches get thrown.

Assault, however, can involve all types of weapons. Drivers overcome with road rage have been known to use baseball bats, pepper spray and anything handy to strike someone.

Because firearms are so prevalent in this country, road rage too often turns deadly when one or more people pull a gun. Shooting someone is considered assault with a deadly weapon.

Guns aren't the only deadly weapons, however. When drivers intentionally ram their vehicle into someone or hit another car in an attempt to injure them, that is also considered assault with a deadly weapon.

The next time you're angered by another person's driving or are the object of someone's anger, don't respond in kind, even if he or she is in the wrong. Perhaps give a wave of apology to diffuse the situation.

If the other driver is following you or driving aggressively near you, get out of his or her way and put some space between you. If you feel threatened, call 911. If you both stop because there's been a crash, it may be wise to remain in your vehicle and wait for the police.

If the situation gets out of hand and you find yourself facing criminal charges, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help work to mitigate the consequences to your life.

Source: FindLaw, "3 Ways Road Rage Can Get You Arrested," Andrew Lu, accessed Jan. 31, 2018

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