It can be difficult driving in California at the best of times. Traffic is usually congested, and people are always in a hurry. Impatient, rude and inattentive drivers surround you wherever you go. It is no surprise that it can be easy to lose your patience. However, before you lose control and decide to get back at the next person who cuts you off by chasing him down and cutting him off in return, consider the fact that you could face serious criminal charges for this type of behavior.

The American Safety Council states that there is a difference between aggressive driving and road rage. If you speed, swerve from lane to lane or tailgate, you are driving aggressively. This behavior can cause accidents, but it would be a traffic offense if you get a ticket. On the other hand, road rage is a criminal offense because you cross the line from driving impatiently to intentionally meaning to cause harm. It does not matter if you acted in the heat of the moment without taking time to consider the consequences. If you participate in road rage and someone gets hurt, you may face assault charges.

The next time another driver makes you see red, you may want to try the following methods to keep your cool:

  • Take a deep breath and remind yourself that the other person may be having a bad day or might not have meant to cause offense.
  • Listen to music that puts you in a good mood or put on a humorous podcast.
  • Avoid looking the other driver in the eye or escalating a conflict by blaring your horn or retaliating.
  • If you need to get it off your chest, insult the other driver under your breath, rather than yelling or using gestures.

Thousands of people have suffered serious and even fatal injuries in road rage accidents over the years, and numerous drivers without criminal records have found themselves facing severe penalties. You may avoid these consequences by staying in control while you drive, but the law also entitles you to a competent defense.