Is Road Rage a Criminal Offense in California?

Road rage is a serious problem. While most drivers have dealt with frustration after getting cut off in traffic, there’s a difference between shaking your head at another driver and exhibiting dangerous behavior. 

So where does the law stand on this issue? Is road rage a criminal offense in California? What legal resources are there for victims? Keep reading to find out. 

Is Road Rage a Criminal Act?

“Road rage” doesn’t refer to a criminal act, at least not directly. But there are criminal events that could fall under the umbrella of road rage, including:

Reckless Driving

According to California Vehicle Code 23103, reckless driving happens when a person drives with “wanton disregard” for the safety of others and/or the safety of property. This charge is classified as a misdemeanor.

Reckless driving can result in penalties such as:

  • Imprisonment for 5-90 days
  • A fine of $145 to $1000

Of course, if someone is injured or killed by a reckless driver, the charges and penalties could increase. Likewise, past convictions for similar offenses could affect the outcome of a case.

Hit and Run

Hit-and-run charges vary in severity. Depending on the case, a driver could be charged with an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony as defined by Vehicle Codes 20002 and 20001.

The least severe option in the list of potential charges, infractions come with a             maximum penalty of $250.

The conviction of a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge is met with the possibility of six months in county jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.

Felony hit and runs apply to drivers who leave the accident scene or fail to identify themselves after a person has been injured or killed. The charges could lead to severe penalties, like fines of up to $10,000 and/or 16 months to 4 years in a state prison.

Criminal Threats

According to California Penal Code 422, a driver who threatens death, injury, harm, or violence in a way that intimidates or threatens another driver may be charged with criminal threats. This could result in prison time if the driver is convicted.

Assault or Assault with a Deadly Weapon

If a driver attempts to run a pedestrian down or push another vehicle off the road, the event could lead to assault charges or charges for assault with a deadly weapon. 

With a standard assault charge, the penalties could include months in county jail, probation, fines, and the assignment of anger management classes. 

For assault with a deadly weapon charges, the penalties are harsher. They might include years in county jail and up to $10,000 in fines. 


Battery charges are covered under California Penal Code 242 and are defined as the unlawful use of violence against another person. If a driver leaves his vehicle to inflict violence, that could be considered to be battery.

As for the penalties, expect a conviction to result in anger management classes, county jail time, probation, and/or fines.

How Can You Avoid Road Rage and Aggressive Driving?

You can’t always avoid a run-in with a hothead. But the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety makes some suggestions that could help in dealing with another angry driver out on the road. 

According to the organization, aggressive driving plays a role in 56% of all fatal car accidents. With this in mind, follow these tips to avoid escalating tension:

Avoid Offending Other Drivers

Try to avoid cutting off other drivers. Don’t drive slowly in the fast lane, tailgate, or make obscene gestures. These behaviors could offend a driver and lead to road rage. 

Refuse to Engage

If you see that another driver is upset, don’t engage with that person. Give their vehicle plenty of room, avoid making eye contact, and get help if necessary. 

Maintain a Positive Attitude

If you are a competitive driver, try to correct those impulses. Give yourself time to make it to your destination safely. 

These tips may seem simple, but they could keep you from a violent road rage encounter. 

What Happens When a Victim Is Injured in a Road Rage Incident?

Is road rage a criminal offense in California? Yes and no. Unfortunately, these kinds of events seem to be growing in frequency. If you are injured because of another driver’s road rage or reckless driving, call a personal injury attorney. 

Since 1992, our personal injury attorneys at the Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, LLP. have been fighting for the people. Now, when those injured in automobile accidents need financial help, or for the families that need to know that the loss of a loved one could have been prevented, there is a personal injury law firm in San Diego that is on their side.

If you or a family member has been injured, call the lawyers at Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, LLP. There’s never been a better time than right now to speak to a personal injury attorney—FREE of charge. Call us at 858-551-2090 or request a free consultation online today!