Angry road-rage driver

It's summertime. The temperature is up. So is congestion.

An easy time to get hot under the collar - no doubt - but think again before you rage on the road.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), road rage incidents are "listed as an exemption in many auto insurance policies since any damage stemming from aggressive [driving] isn't truly an accident but rather caused by risky behavior."

So the short answer for road-ragers about whether or not their auto insurance covers them when they lose it? No, for the most part, since insurers don't want to be liable for a road-rager's risky, unsafe, or criminal activity.

Bob Passmore, senior director of personal lines at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), has some short advice for easily heated motorists: "It's not worth it."

"You could potentially get yourself into a situation where insurance doesn't cover it," he told Online Auto Insurance (OAI). "Not only could you face criminal charges for the incident, but you could also be on the hook financially for the damage."

Road Rage Seldom Translates into Claims

Summer typically brings an uptick in road rage incidents, partly due to hotter conditions and more cars on roadways. There's also a rise in deaths linked to road rage, according to an ABC News report in June citing data from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

But don't fret, worried driver. According to Passmore, such incidents "don't happen as often as you might think."

"The most frequent road rage you see is the yelling and the gestures, but it's not my impression it's a routine occurrence that road rage turns into actual claims with insured damage," he said. "It might seem like a big deal because the highest-profile incidents usually get headlines or go on YouTube."

Claims involving road rage usually end up in court - like this one in Maine or this one in Colorado -Â because insurance companies and policyholders sometimes need to resolve disputes over the "degrees of incidents," according to Passmore.

"Typically there are exclusions in liability policies for damage intentionally caused by the insured; that's the most common exclusion," he told OAI. "But different states may interpret that intention in a different way. There's all kinds of shades of gray there."

But Passmore said that road rage-related claims are so rare that he can't remember personally handling one throughout his decades of experience working with claims in the industry.

"In my experience, where you have people fighting or hurt, that's relatively rare," he said.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, many people do end up getting hurt from road rage, although many of the incidents may be taking place outside of the car and also outside of the purview of auto insurance coverage. Their study of 10,000 road rage incidents over a seven-year period showed an average of 31 road rage-related deaths and 1,800 injuries a year.

Comprehensive, Collision Can Be Valuable for Victims

There's a silver lining for unfortunate victims cars damaged from road rage, according to Passmore: "From a victim's perspective, your insurance is usually going to cover you."

For victims, optional forms of insurance coverage added on to your policy can protect you against road rage-related incidents:

  • Comprehensive Coverage: This form of coverage protects you from "other-than-collision" incidents where your car is damaged by weather (you're out the door to work, and find a huge tree branch had fallen overnight onto your roof), animals (you're driving, and a passing deer crushes your hood) and-in the case of road rage-vandals (you've parked, and a pissed-off driver has followed you to kick a dent into your side door).
  • Collision Coverage: This form of coverage protects you when your car hits another vehicle or object. Seeing that most road rage incidents involve a car colliding with something, this coverage is valuable for those concerned about road rage. Coverage would kick in for incidents including road-ragers running you off of the road and into a light pole.

Tips for Drivers

Insurers and traffic safety groups offer several advisories to help the oft-angry motorist.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has a three-step process, summarized here:

  1. Don't offend.
  2. Don't engage.
  3. Adjust your attitude.

So cool those nerves, hotheads. The best advice that OAI can give motorists is the same doled out by Passmore:

"Keep your head on the road."