The criminal consequences of road rage charges in Canada.

As criminal defence lawyers, we frequently receive calls for people charged with “road rage” incidents.  Although road rage by itself is not a criminal offence, there are many types of behaviour that can escalate into something that police feel call for criminal charges. These Criminal Code offences can include: assault, assault causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon, mischief, dangerous driving, careless driving, and so on.

What does a typical road rage incident look like and how does it escalate into criminal charges?

Driving is often a pleasurable or at least tolerable activity, but this experience can change in an instant when tempers flare and frustrations mount. This shift from fun to fury can be triggered by poorly timed construction when we’re running late, other drivers who don’t drive as efficiently or as courteously as we expect, or maybe even the speed or amount of traffic itself. Many, if not most of us, have ways of coping with these changes by expressing our disbelief to a passenger, listening to music or even a few deep breaths. Many people describe this as road rage. Road rage is a common enough term to express the high level of frustration and anger that we all sometimes experience on the road.

road rage charged criminal assault

“Road Rage” isn’t a crime; however, the effects of a reaction can manifest criminal charges.

“Road rage” is not a real legal term in Canada and is not defined or even mentioned in the Criminal Code or Highway Traffic Act. Giving into road rage, however, is unsafe and can lead to a number of very real criminal charges.

Some of these charges under the Criminal Code of Canada can include:

  • Criminal Negligence – Section 219
  • Criminal Negligence Causing Death – Section 220
  • Dangerous Driving – Section 249
  • Failure to Stop at Scene of Accident – Section 252
  • Uttering Threats – Section 264.1
  • Assault – Section 265
  • Assault Causing Bodily Harm – Section 267
  • Assault with a Weapon – Section 267 (This includes using the vehicle itself as a weapon)
  • Aggravated Assault – Section 268
  • Mischief (This includes willful damage to a vehicle) – Section 430

It’s not hard to imagine how many of these events could happen in the blink of an eye. Imagine this scenario for instance: A driver is cut off on the 403 and rear-ends the car in front of them. Both drivers perceive the other one to be at fault and they begin yelling at each other. One driver gets back behind the wheel or reaches for a weapon and the next thing you know one is fleeing the scene.

Are there other “road rage” types of offences under the Highway Traffic Act?

Criminal offences aren’t the only type of offences that road rage can lead to. Two of the more major offences under the Highway Traffic Act that can stem from road rage are:

It is easy for many drivers to feel anonymous and powerful while masked in a vehicle. Aggressive-driving behaviours, such as tailgating, speeding, failing to yield the right-of-way and cutting in front of someone too closely, may cause other drivers to become frustrated and angry and lead to a road rage conflict between drivers. An angry driver may attempt dangerous retaliatory action.

What if I am about to be charged or already charged with road rage allegations?

If you’re looking for some information on how the criminal process works and what to expect first, we have more resources here:

If you’ve already gotten behind the wheel and slipped into road rage, we can help.

The odds of success with any responding to any of these charges are much higher with the insight and guidance of experienced counsel. If the Crown is seeking jail time, you need your vehicle for your employment, or you can’t afford years of exorbitant insurance increases – then it is strongly suggested that you retain competent legal counsel.

The lawyers in our firm offer experienced legal representation for serious traffic offences like careless driving.  You can reach us 24 hours a day by calling (416) 999-9389 or complete a consultation form here