Aggressive Driving

Have You Been Cited for Aggressive Driving?

Have You Been Arrested for Aggressive Driving in Georgia? 

Aggressive driving refers to selfish, unsafe and risky driving behavior that shows the deliberate disregard for the safety of other drivers. Aggressive driving behavior includes weaving in and out of traffic, changing lanes without signaling, passing in no-passing zones or emergency lanes, forceful merging, failing to yield, cutting off other drivers at close range, speeding, inappropriate gesturing and hand signals, inappropriate use of horns, flashing headlights, and tailgating.

Attorney Richard Lawson has been defending drivers in Georgia for more than 25 years.  As a Former Georgia Prosecutor, he puts his experience to work for you. His is the top-rated defense attorney in Georgia.  His reviews and client recommendations can be found on AVVO.

Aggressive Driving Defined:

Georgia Code § 40-6-397 (a) defines aggressive driving as driving “with the intent to annoy, harass, molest, intimidate, injure, or obstruct another person, including without limitation violating Code Section 40-6-42 [overtaking and passing], 40-6-48 [improper lane change or usage], 40-6-49 [following too closely], 40-6-123 [failing to signal], 40-6-184 [driving too slowly], 40-6-312 [lane usage by motorcycles], or 40-6-390 [reckless driving] with such intent.”

Interestingly, aggressive driving does not need to target another driver.  Presumably, this is to allow the prosecution of aggressive driving directed at pedestrians and passengers in other vehicles as well as passengers in the vehicle driven by the defendant.  Any person convicted of aggressive driving shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature. A high and aggravated misdemeanor in Georgia is punishable by a fine up to $5,000 or by incarceration for up to 12 months, or both.  Because it is labeled “high and aggravated,” the amount of earned time allowance will be limited to no more than 4 days per month for jail sentences.

Consequences of Aggressive Driving in Georgia:

An aggressive driving charge can lead to a points suspension of your driver's license if 15 or more points are accumulated in any consecutive 24-month period.  An aggressive driving conviction will add 6 points to your license.  The Georgia Department of Driver Services will also assess points for aggressive driving convictions that occurred in other states.  A plea of nolo contendere to an aggressive driving charge will prevent the assessment of any points, but the Department of Driver Services will only accept one plea of nolo contendere for a moving traffic violation in any five year period without assigning points to your driving record.If this is your first or second points suspension in five years, you will be eligible for a limited use driving permit during the suspension period.

A limited use driving permit allows you to drive to work, school, medical care and treatment including pharmacies to obtain prescription medications, addiction or abuse counseling, or attend court ordered driver education courses.For a first or second points suspension within five years, you are eligible for immediate reinstatement of your driver's license once you complete a defensive driving course and pay a reinstatement fee. For a third points suspension within five years, your license will be suspended for two years and you will not be eligible for a limited use driving permit or early reinstatement, but you will still be required to submit a certificate of completion of a defensive driving course and pay a reinstatement fee at the end of the suspension period.

For drivers under the age of 21, any offense for which four or more points are assessed will suspend your license for a six month period.  This includes the offense of aggressive driving which applies 6 points to your license.  This is a “hard” suspension and you will not be eligible for a limited use driving permit.  Further, a plea of nolo contendere will not prevent the assessment of points on your driving record.  Any second or subsequent conviction will lead to a 12 month license suspension.

Also, because aggressive driving is at the very least a form of negligence, the victim of an automobile collision caused by an aggressive driver can seek damages in a civil lawsuit for injuries, including compensation for loss of income, pain and suffering, disability, medical expenses, and punitive damages. The same incident may also support civil damages for assault, battery, or intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Public Policy and Georgia Aggressive Driving:

The public has contradictory opinions about aggressive driving.  A recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety poll found that respondents agreed that excessive speed was dangerous, and almost 60 percent of the public believed it was not acceptable to drive more than 15 mph over the speed limit on freeways. And nearly 90 percent of drivers surveyed viewed aggressive driving as a very serious or somewhat serious threat to their own safety. Despite these strong, legitimate concerns, though, 51 percent of those responding to the AAA poll said they had personally exceeded the speed limit on a freeway by more than 15 miles per hour in the last 30 days.

All Georgia drivers are familiar with aggressive driving – congestion and slow moving traffic downtown and on I-85/75, GA 400, and I-285 cause frustration that can quickly turn into road rage.  Impatience and annoyance while behind the wheel can turn a normally mild-mannered person into an aggressive driver – a person who tailgates another driver who they felt was going too slowly or cut them off in traffic or weaves in and out of traffic at high speeds to pass.  When you add in other stressful situations like an important appointment with heavy traffic or even just a bad day at work, that aggressive driver can become an even larger threat.

The Research Behind Aggressive Driving:

According to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the American Automobile Association (AAA) in 1997, at least 10,037 incidents nationwide between 1990 and 1996 stemmed from an angry or impatient motorist intentionally injured or killed, or attempted to injure or kill, another person due to a traffic dispute.  As a result, 218 people died, 12,610 people were injured, and at least 90 percent of the attackers were male. A more recent AAA study showed that 56 percent of fatal crashes from 2003 to 2007 involved one or more driver actions typically associated with aggressive driving, and incidents of aggressive driving have increased by 7 percent every year since 1990.

Examples of Aggressive Driving in Georgia:

Aggressive driving can take form in terrifying and unexpected ways.  A Buford, GA man was arrested recently for ramming another vehicle from behind after he believed another driver had cut him off in traffic.  He faces other charges for then pulling out a tire iron and striking the other vehicle repeatedly.  An Atlanta man faced charges after tailgating and weaving back and forth behind another vehicle for miles after he became enraged when the mini van did not move quickly enough when a traffic light turned green. A more recent case in December of 2012 involves a County school board member striking a teenager with her car over a dispute over a Walmart parking spot. The teenager had been standing in a parking spot to “save” it for a friend.  The school board member yelled at the girl to move and then struck the girl with her SUV.

Significantly, the law requires a deliberate, intentional act directed at a specific person.  It is not enough that the person drive in such a manner that it is clear he or she has no regard for the safety of others, the person charged must have targeted his or her actions toward an individual.  See State v. Burrell, 263 Ga. App. 207 (2003). This is the key difference between aggressive driving and the offense of reckless driving.  Reckless driving is not directed toward a specific person but, instead, shows a reckless disregard for all people or property generally.

This is only a recently enacted law and there are few reported cases.  This may be because the Georgia statute is vague and calls for police officers to make subjective determinations as to both a person's intentions and what constitutes annoying or harassing behavior.  This can be difficult for prosecutors to later prove at trial, which is why reckless driving is the much more commonly charged offense as opposed to aggressive driving.  As shown by the cases discussed below, it seems that flagrantly outrageous behavior results in an aggressive driving charge.

In one reported case in 2008, a man was convicted of aggressive driving after tailgating another vehicle before passing and then turning his vehicle in a manner to block the roadway so the other driver and his family could not pass, all while shouting vulgarities at the couple's children. See Winn v. State, 291 Ga. App. 16 (2008).

Another reported decision involved a man who chose the wrong person to lose his patience with.  A uniformed police officer in an unmarked vehicle was traveling well below the posted speed limit at only 5 miles per hour on an Atlanta street after an SEC Championship football game.  The defendant pulled behind the officer and sounded his horn and the officer waved for him to pass.

Instead, the man continued to sound his horn and weaved back in forth in his lane so close behind the officer's vehicle that the officer could not see the man's headlights.  The judge did not accept the man's explanation that he could not pass because it would not have made sense to pass and then immediately get back in the left lane in front of the officer to make a left hand turn.  See Frasard v. State, 278 Ga. App. 352 (2006).

Another incident involved a case of bullying.  A teenager was pulling out of her high school parking lot, only to be confronted by a car full of other teenagers who had a history of harassing the girl, who all then leaned out of their windows and made obscene gestures and yelled mean comments directed at her.  The girl then heard the driver yell “watch this” and slam on her brakes.  The victim was able to brake in time, but the driver behind her was not and she was rear-ended.  In that case, the court first charged the driver with reckless driving, but intent was so clear that the charge was amended to aggressive driving. In re A.M.A., 266 Ga. App. 273 (2004).

Aggressive Driving Is Serious Offense That Needs Immediate Legal Attention:

It is very important to seek immediate legal attention. This offense is not a traffic ticket.  It is a serious misdemeanor offense that can result in potential time in jail, plus any related driving consequences.  Call now to speak to an experienced attorney who knows how to handle serious cases.  We are here to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week because your situation deserved immediate attention.

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