Everyone in Seattle knows that driving around the city can be a stressful experience. Traffic jams and construction sites are bad enough, but it’s the other drivers that really worry motorists: it’s common knowledge that too many of the other people on the road are too distracted, too stoned, too drunk, or just too bad at driving to stay safe behind the wheel.
But is all that stress on the road causing even more safety hazards? An online study by Auto Insurance Center crunched the data on over 65,000 Instagram posts with the hashtag #RoadRage. They found that use of the tag peaks at 6:00 pm, presumably around the hour when commuters are stuck in traffic or just getting home. Washington state is 10th in the nation for drivers using that hashtag; Seattle is the 12th most prolific city when it comes to complaining about road rage, ranking above more famously angry drivers in Washington DC, Boston, Miami, Beverly Hills, and Hoboken.
A sign of worse drivers, or a uniquely Seattle complaint?
While local news sites reported on Seattle’s road rage epidemic, it’s not clear whether the data really shows that our drivers are angrier than average. Commuters in America’s most tech-friendly city may be more likely to reach for their phones and use the appropriate hashtag when they see erratic behavior on the road. And Seattle drivers’ disinclination to honk, combined with the Northwestern tendency to complain in private rather than in public, may make it more likely that drivers will take to the internet to criticize a stranger’s driving instead of making their displeasure in the moment. And Seattleites may also have a lower bar for what constitutes road rage than people used to the chaotic streets of big cities on the eastern seaboard.
A dangerous problem, even if it’s not prevalent
While it’s difficult to measure Seattle’s collective anger on the road, it’s undeniable that road rage has caused injuries and deaths on our streets. This February, a road rage incident in South Seattle ended with one driver shooting at another. In 2014, another road rage shooting ended with the death of Yancy Noll. The story made national news as the shooter’s defense team argued that their client shot Noll in self-defense after Noll drove threatened him. The case resulted in a murder conviction after police found evidence suggesting that the shooter had been seeking out a victim, and used road rage as an excuse. Last week, a cyclist sent a video to news stations that shows an aggressive driver jumping a curb to chase him. And victims of road rage in Seattle have complained that police are slow to respond to reports, even though the SPD says that road rage is a high-priority crime for emergency responders.
If you or a loved one have been a victim of road rage, it may be time to speak with a personal injury attorney. Road rage is a complicated issue in civil law; an attorney with experience in insurance law may be able to help you navigate the claims process.