Road Rage and Foreseeable Consequences

Many of the clients for whom we act come to need legal representation because they didn’t appreciate the consequences of their actions. Our clients aren’t alone as no-one is perfect in this regard. Even us lawyers have (on very rare occasions!) had cause to reflect on the unintended consequences of the decisions we’ve made, both in our professional as well as our private lives.

Yes, there is always an element of luck involved. But remember: the more you tempt fate, the more likely you are to come unstuck eventually. Trivial actions can sometimes have big consequences that aren’t always immediately obvious beforehand. This video (link in the comments below) is a fine demonstration of how badly things can go wrong. As criminal lawyers, we are constantly dealing with results like these.

Adolescents, particularly males, are at greater risk in this department. This is because the frontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with consequential thinking and impulse control, does not fully develop until around 24 years of age.

They say hindsight is a wonderful thing. If you’re in court facing a criminal charge: it most certainly isn’t. The criminal law has high expectations of what is “reasonably foreseeable” by the “ordinary person” and these expectations often don’t match up with what happens in the real world. You might have had absolutely no idea whatsoever that your actions would have a particular consequence, but you may well be criminally liable because the law says you should have known.

When comes to traffic law in Western Australia: the bar is set even higher. Amendments to the Road Traffic Act 1974 passed by parliament in 2004 removed the need to prove a connection between reckless or dangerous driving and any corresponding injuries or deaths. For example, where a driver is drunk is involved in a crash where a pedestrian is killed in circumstances where the crash was caused by the pedestrian and for no other reason: the intoxicated driver will nevertheless still be guilty of dangerous driving causing death.

Under the existing criminal law in Western Australia, the motorcyclist in this video would be in serious hot water.

Merely kicking the car would likely constitute reckless driving under Western Australia’s legislation. Once that threshold has been reached, there are a myriad of consequences that flow from it.

Even if our motorcyclist had no idea that kicking the side of a car would result in a serious crash: he or she would be held criminally liable for any injuries or deaths that occurred. In the case of someone being killed: it would result in a prison sentence of up to 5 years, possibly longer. The offence would be regarded as “aggravated” due to the “road rage” element involved and the need impose a sentence to deter others from engaging in road rage behaviour.

Our motorcyclist could also be charged with criminal damage for kicking the side of the car as well as failing to stop and render assistance.

Finally, under the Road Traffic Act 1974, the motorcyclist would also be at risk of having his motorbike confiscated as it is likely his/her offending would be deemed to be a “road rage offence” under the legislation.

All as result of kicking the side of a car.

Think before you act.