It’s no longer just road rage we need to worry about, but road rage involving guns.
According to the Washington State Patrol, 2022 is already an extremely deadly year in terms of road rage shootings. It might even outpace 2021, when at least 40 shootings between vehicles occurred in Washington.
This year, there were 20 highway shootings – half of those reported last year – by April 6.
Road rage is when a driver, often perceiving a threat or slight, becomes unreasonably angry and attempts to interact with the driver that caused it. It can range from mere cursing, honking or obscene gestures to forcing the other driver off the road — or firing a gun at them.
Are people angrier these days in Washington? Are we carrying guns more often?
“We see this uptick and really can’t explain why,” said a state patrol spokesperson.
Shootings, already high, were way up in the U.S. beginning in 2019
Everytown for Gun Safety, the nation’s largest gun violence prevention organization, released a report with numbers from between 2016 and 2021.
In 2016, 73 people were killed and 166 people were wounded in road rage shootings in the U.S. The total rose slightly in 2017, then fell a bit in 2018. But in 2019, there was a surprising surge: only 68 killed but 225 wounded. Then in 2020, road rage shootings surged again and took the lives of 102 people and wounded 307. Then, in 2021, yet another surge. We lost 131 people and 391 others were wounded.
We may be seeing another surge now.
The pandemic is one reason; more guns is another
These surges in road rage shootings correspond closely to the pandemic period. Although there was a small surge in 2019, the surges in 2020 and 2021 were much larger. The 2021 total is double the pre-pandemic average.
The pandemic introduced a lot of stress and isolation into people’s lives. Many people lost loved ones to COVID-19. Others lost their livelihoods. Others lost access to childcare and had to quit their jobs. Millions were isolated with their families – or alone – to prevent the quick spread of the disease.
As Everytown for Gun Safety notes, however, that is not the only issue. Road rage incidents these days also involve guns more often than they did before the pandemic.
In 2016, 34% of road rage incidents in the U.S. involved guns. By 2021, that number had grown to 62% of such incidents involving guns.
As with the total number of incidents, the percentage of incidents involving guns surged somewhat (39%) in 2019, significantly (49%) in 2020, and then even more (62%) in 2021.
Tips to avoid a road rage shooting
Road rage incidents often result from one driver becoming offended by another’s driving. They may feel you cut them off. They may think you caused a near-miss. In any event, the incident enrages them and they begin to engage with you. You might have the strong urge to engage back.
Do not engage. Remain calm and attempt to disengage by letting your car fall back into slower traffic.
If you can’t escape, avoid eye contact with the enraged driver.
Continue trying to disengage your car from the enraged driver’s. If they follow you, go to a nearby police station.
If the enraged driver shoots at you, immediately drop back as quickly as you can safely by slowing down. If you can safely do so, look at the car and try to memorize its description, especially its license plate. Report the incident to the police.
People who are injured in road rage incidents who can identify the driver could have significant personal injury claims against the enraged driver.