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Measure Proposed To Keep Road Rage In Check Aggressive Drivers Could Face Gross Misdemeanor Charges

The other driver flips you off, or roars around your car and slams on his brakes, or speeds up so you can’t pass, or won’t move when the light turns green.

This is “road rage,” and now state lawmakers think there ought to be a law aimed at such bad behavior on the road.

A measure proposed by Sen. Rosa Franklin, D-Tacoma, would make road rage a misdemeanor for a first offense and a gross misdemeanor for second and subsequent offenses.

A driver could be charged with road rage, officially called “aggressive driving,” if he or she acted out angry behavior - by slamming on the brakes or yelling at another driver, for example - at least twice within five miles.

A first offense would mean at least a day in jail and a $350 fine. Subsequent offenses would bring a minimum two days in jail and a $500 fine.

The Senate Law and Justice Committee expects to conduct a hearing on the measure, Senate Bill 6708, next week.

The measure is not aimed at people with road rage who go further - beating up or killing drivers or pedestrians who made them mad.

Existing laws against assault and murder already apply to them, backers said.

“Who this bill targets are people who are angry, and because of their anger do things that can and do cause accidents,” said Sen. Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park, a co-sponsor.

“The idea is to have a tool to help cool things down before it escalates and causes an accident or worse,” she said.

“Or worse” refers to incidents that turn from angry words, gestures and actions to beatings, stabbings and shootings.

She and others noted a November incident on the West Seattle Bridge.

Two men got into a fight that began with honking, obscenities and hand gestures. It ended after one man used a baseball bat to damage the second man’s car. He in turn was shot in the lower back by the other man.

Both men have pleaded innocent in King County Superior Court to charges filed in connection with the incident.


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