By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
When we think of the term “road rage”, thoughts of screaming, rude hand gestures, and sometimes even violence spring to mind – indeed, incidents of aggressive driver behaviour involving such actions are reported frequently on our roads.
But even though anger can be a very powerful and reactive emotion, making us do things we typically wouldn’t do especially from behind the wheel, you’d never expect to hear of a person responding to their anger on the road with the help of explosives.
Last week, one such case made headlines when a Tasmanian driver suffered burns to his legs and face following an alleged incident when a passing vehicle threw a firecracker through his partially open window.
Police have described the terrifying incident as an act of road rage.
How the Road Rage Incident Unfolded
Police allege the driver was travelling south on the Midland Highway approaching Campbell Town on Friday night.
For quite some time, he was being followed by a car on the major Tasmanian highway.
Around 8pm, he signalled for that car to go past him, at which point it is alleged a firecracker was hurled through his window.
“He’s been driving south on the Midland Highway and had had a car following him for a period of time and at one point he’s signalled for that car to go past him and he’s had his window partially down,” Police Inspector Troy Morrisby said of the attack.
“As the car has gone past it’s pulled alongside the victim and has thrown what we believed to be a firecracker into his vehicle which has resulted in him receiving some nasty burns to his legs, thigh and some secondary burns to his facial region as well.”
The man managed to continue driving until finally reaching Bridgewater, 112 kilometres further down the highway.
Once arriving at Bridgewater, he called relatives who then contacted the police.
Inspector Morrisby: Victim Identified of Middle Eastern Nationality However Incident Not Racially Motivated
While the victim is of Middle Eastern nationality, Inspector Morrisby clarified the incident was not racially motivated, rather a random event and one underpinned by aggressive driver behaviour.
“If anything, it relates to a road rage incident – extremely reckless, extremely dangerous and it’s something that we’re treating extremely seriously.”
“I am aware that there had been some suggestion that this could have been racially motivated given that we know the victim does have Middle Eastern nationality, but can I just assure everyone that there is absolutely no information or no evidence that suggests in any way that this was motivated by race.”
Victim Remains in Hospital with Nasty Burns to his Legs
Meanwhile, Inspector Morrisby also commented that the firecracker confrontation could have had fatal consequences given the ability to distract someone travelling on a highway that has a legal speed limit of 110 kilometres per hour.
“It’s very fortunate that it wasn’t far more serious and there wasn’t a vehicle accident as well,” he said.
The man remains in the Royal Hobart Hospital, while police continue their search for the driver of the other vehicle.
Understanding Road Rage
Road rage occurs as a result of an aggressive driver, usually due to impatience or anger, who intentionally tries to threaten, injure or even kill another driver as a result of a traffic dispute.
Road rage is usually triggered by a specific event. These events usually involve the movements of another driver, such as a someone driving very slowly, or cutting into a lane without indicating, or other behaviours that may be interpreted as a threat or an obstacle.
In 2017, a local study into road rage was carried out across Australia finding that 18 percent of drivers said they chase another driver when they are raging, with the intent of showing the other driver that they are angry.
The study also showed that people commit acts of road rage if they feel they can get away with it, as well as if they have friends and family who engage in such behaviour.
Are Australian Drivers Becoming More Aggressive When It Comes to Road Rage?
From firecrackers to hammers and even chainsaws, a spate of malicious road rage incidents across Australia in recent years have been making headlines.
With all the dash cam footage, smartphone videos and media reports of shocking aggressive driving incidents now floating around, it would almost seem that we are a nation of road ragers and that we are becoming more aggressive in terms of how we go about it.
Indeed, earlier this year in Melbourne, a man was attacked with a hammer in a road rage incident.
Meanwhile, in Perth, two young men terrorised a driver and smashed his window with a baseball bat.
And in Sydney, a crazed man wielding a chainsaw was filmed in a frightening road rage brawl that brought traffic to a standstill.
In factoring both the level of aggression and the use of weaponry, it is unsurprising that The Age attributes road rage ultimately to a range of crimes – mainly resulting from anger.
Understandably, anger can be a very powerful and reactive emotion, making us do things we typically wouldn’t do.
But nowhere is it less helpful or more potentially dangerous than when we are behind the wheel of a vehicle.
There’s no denying that slow drivers, a driver who changes lanes without indicating, or someone tailgating you may lead to a heated outburst.
However, anger-fuelled violence on the roads is dangerous and unacceptable.
Worryingly, road rage is no longer a new phenomenon either. The idea that people become filled with anger on the road and that the behaviour associated with it is now going beyond simply honking the horn, hurling abuse or demonstrating a hand gesture to more violent methods is becoming more prevalent.
Ultimately, being licenced to drive is a privilege and carries with it paramount duties to the community. In the face of road rage, it is a duty that can easily be honoured by being courteous to the fact that all drivers make mistakes.
In NSW, it is an offence to cause explosives to be placed in or near a building, conveyance or public place. It carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 14 years under section 48(1) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
Regardless of whether an explosion occurs, or whether anyone is harmed, a person will be guilty of this offence if he/she causes an explosive to be placed either near or in a building, vehicle vessel, train or other conveyance, or public place with the intention of causing bodily harm to any person.
Actual bodily harm includes injuries of scratches or bruising on a victim.
It even includes psychological and mental health harm caused from an assault. An example of this is where the victim’s been injured psychologically in a very serious way, going beyond merely transient emotions, feelings and states of mind (Le v R  NSWCCA 442).
This offence will initially commence in the local court proceedings before being finally dealt with by a Judge in the District Court unless it is withdrawn through negotiations with the prosecution earlier. For this reason, it’s referred to as a strictly indictable offence.
Under Clause 4 Explosives Regulation 2013 (NSW), an explosive is defined as articles or substances that, when manufactured, mixed or assembled, can produce an explosive or pyrotechnic effect.
For more information on this blog topic, contact our experienced criminal lawyers team in Sydney to arrange a free first appointment today.