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Road Rage Shootings Skyrocket

By Richard Dahl | Last updated on

America's roads and highways are becoming ever more dangerous places.

Death rates are escalating at frightening levels, largely due to reckless driving. So is road rage and, perhaps unsurprisingly, deadly road rage involving guns.

Police don't necessarily keep track of whether road rage is the cause of a shooting. Many states don't recognize road rage as a criminal category and instead charge offenders with other violations or crimes like homicide or assault, often several in connection with a single incident. These can include speeding, unsafe lane changing, assault, or manslaughter.

However, the gun violence prevention organization Everytown for Gun Safety has been maintaining a database of road rage shooting incidents since 2016 and reports that they are skyrocketing.

The organization says that in 2021, more than 500 people were shot in more than 700 road rage incidents involving guns — killing 131 and injuring 391. On average, 44 people per month were shot or wounded in road-range incidents — double the pre-pandemic rate, Everytown says. The number of deaths and injuries in 2021 was a whopping 20% higher than 2020.

Some States Keeping Count of Road Rage

Road rage shootings and gun threats have caught the attention of officials at various levels of government as well.

In Texas, road rage shootings are particularly frequent. Dallas police began monitoring them and counted 45 people wounded and 11 killed there last year. Police in Austin counted 160 episodes of drivers pointing or firing guns last year. Texas also accounted for 25% of the road rage shooting fatalities in the entire U.S. for 2021.

Law enforcement agencies in Arizona, one of the worst states for road rage shootings, are also keeping track of shootings now. Between 2020 and 2021, they increased by 22%.

Take Deep Breaths

For gun owners, a fine line exists between criminal brandishing and justified self-defense. Brandishing — using a gun in a threatening manner, no matter how its owner may have been provoked — can be a serious crime. This can even include simply showing another driver your gun, even if you have no intention of firing it. Using a gun for self-defense — either by display or actual use — is also legally risky.

Some people feel they need firearms for self-defense, but it's also important for them to be aware that the presence of guns can escalate a disagreement between motorists into a deadly situation. Road rage is already dangerous enough because a vehicle can inflict terrible damage, but guns will make the situation even more volatile.

Here are some other pointers that people can follow to reduce the likelihood of road rage:

  • Don't drink and drive.
  • If you are a licensed gun owner, seriously consider leaving your firearm at home if it is not necessary to have it with you.
  • If you're confronted by an angry driver, remain calm even though you, too, may be angry. Take deep breaths.
  • If you are still driving while this unfolds, do your best to safely distance yourself from the other driver without endangering other drivers.
  • Stay in your vehicle.
  • Be polite. Try as best you can to be understanding. The person confronting you may be having a horrible day.
  • If the situation escalates, remain in your vehicle with the windows up and your doors locked, and call 911 or the police.

Don't get into a fight, no matter how wronged you may feel. It's almost certainly not worth it. Even if you are justified in using self-defense, it would be better to not have to mount a legal defense at all.

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