Tom asked: Is it illegal to yell, scream, honk, or otherwise harass another driver, specially a bicyclist? If so would recording the actions of these events be of any use or would law enforcement turn a blind eye as they do in other places in the US? I commute primarily in Pinellas County and sometimes in Hillsborough County.
In some circumstances, the use of a horn is required.
s. 316.271 – Horns and Warning Devices
(3) The driver of a motor vehicle shall, when reasonably necessary to ensure safe operation, give audible warning with his or her horn.
One possible violation would be this:
s. 877.03 – Breach of the Peace; Disorderly Conduct
Whoever commits such acts as are of a nature to corrupt the public morals, or outrage the sense of public decency, or affect the peace and quiet of persons who may witness them, or engages in brawling or fighting, or engages in such conduct as to constitute a breach of the peace or disorderly conduct …. a misdemeanor ….
In such cases, I recommend filing a report with the local police. That requires having the identity of the person or vehicle. It likely won’t result in immediate action, but may result in more law enforcement attention to the area. If the same person or vehicle accumulates many reports, the charge of staling may apply.
s. 784.048 – Stalking; Definitions; Penalties
(1) As used in this section, the term:
(a) “Harass” means to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose.
(b) “Course of conduct” means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, which evidences a continuity of purpose. The term does not include constitutionally protected activity such as picketing or other organized protests.
(c) “Credible threat” means a verbal or nonverbal threat, or a combination of the two, including threats delivered by electronic communication or implied by a pattern of conduct, which places the person who is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family members or individuals closely associated with the person, and which is made with the apparent ability to carry out the threat to cause such harm. It is not necessary to prove that the person making the threat had the intent to actually carry out the threat. The present incarceration of the person making the threat is not a bar to prosecution under this section.
(2) A person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person commits the offense of stalking, a misdemeanor of the first degree ….
I am not aware of any charge of breach of peace or stalking in cases of harassment of cyclists.
If the actions result in the threat of physical harm such as swerving toward you, the party could be guilty of assault.
s. 784.011 – Assault
(1) An “assault” is an intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that such violence is imminent.
To insure that the blind eye isn’t applied, you will need to be persistent and probably need an attorney to achieve effective action. These are criminal acts and do not require that a police office actually witness the act as do non-criminal traffic violations in most circumstances. Videotaping the acts could be useful in an investigation of the incidents.
To take some consolation in these rude acts, I usually am happy that the actions indicate that the person isn’t driving while sleeping or distracted and actually sees me.
A car is easily identified by make, model, color and of course license number. The cyclist who made a vulgar gesture and F bomb pronouncement is totally unidentifiable and can quickly turn to avoid having a picture taken. This is rather unfair and really made me mad as I did nothing wrong!
Most motorists think they don’t do anything wrong but most motorists don’t know the law. I would bet that 50% of all motorists don’t know it’s illegal to block a crosswalk. They expect cyclists to go around them. If I parked my bike in front of a car and expected a car to go around me I would probably be run over or shot, but, a cyclist is expected to put up with this behavior from motorists and not SAY anything. It’s impossible to get law enforcement to do anything about this because I’m ONLY A CYCLIST even though I pay $13K in property tax and more federal income tax than the president.