Road rage under the gun in Pennsylvania

| Thursday, July 21, 2005

Legislation in Pennsylvania would specifically define aggressive driving, increase penalties for offenders and establish a statewide road rage hot line.

Supporters say the effort would help cut down on road rage. Opponents counter that existing penalties are sufficient, and the bill is too vague, which could lead to legal problems.

Two House bills – HB541 and HB1041 – are intended to allow police to target and prevent road rage.

“Aggressive driving is a serious problem in Pennsylvania – a problem our current laws do not deal with seriously enough,” Rep. James Casorio Jr., D-Westmoreland, said in a written statement. “We need to tell aggressive drivers that the punishment for road rage in Pennsylvania will soon fit the crime.”

The bills would create the specific offense of aggressive driving. The effort targets any driver who intentionally harasses, threatens or frightens another driver by tailgating speeding, passing illegally or otherwise driving recklessly.

Currently, police can only charge someone accused of road rage with reckless or careless driving.

“A summary offense and a $200 fine do not begin to reflect the extreme danger these drivers present to their road rage target and every other driver on the road,” Casorio said.

Under the legislation, anyone found driving aggressively could lose his or her driver’s license for 30 days. Repeat offenders would face a one-year license suspension if the second conviction occurred within two years of the first. Aggressive driving that resulted in serious injury to another would carry at least 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

“It is time to send the message that using your vehicle as a means of intimidation is unacceptable, and that in Pennsylvania, it will be punished severely,” he said.

Another bill, HB538, would establish a statewide road rage hot line for witnesses or victims of road rage.

Drivers would be urged in advertisements to call the hot line, which would be an 800 number operated by state police.

Opponents say an easy-to-use number already exists: 9-1-1.

All three bills are in the House Transportation Committee.

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