American Drivers Are Shooting Each Other at Alarming Rates

A US motorist is killed or wounded by gunfire every 17 hours, says advocacy group
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 17, 2022 2:35 PM CDT
Road Rage Shootings Are Way Up Across US
In this June 2021 photo, Orange County DA Todd Spitzer announces charges filed against suspects Marcus Eriz and Wynne Lee in the death of Aiden Leos, right, the 6-year-old boy who was shot and killed on his way to kindergarten in his mother's car. Road rage shootings are up across the country.   (Mark Rightmire/The Orange County Register via AP)

Texas isn’t the only place in America where road rage incidents involving gunfire have reached alarming levels, but the state seems to have more than its fair share, reports the New York Times. In Houston, to cite an example that made national headlines, a 17-year-old was killed as he and his father were leaving an Astros game. Another driver—enraged at being cut off—chased them onto the highway and fired a single shot, missing the father but hitting the son in the back of his head. Similar incidents abound. “In the past, people curse one another, throw up the finger, and keep moving,” says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Now … they’re pulling out the gun and shooting.”

Road rage shootings are not new, but 2021 was an exceptionally bad year. Per the Times, Americans’ post-pandemic behavior suggests a cultural commonality, an extreme example of deteriorating behavior that has also flared on airplanes and in stores.” The shift comes amid surging gun sales, including many by first-time buyers. Per the Guardian, which last year reported on record numbers of FBI criminal background checks (reliable benchmarks for calculating gun purchases), had this quote from a Los Angeles City Council member: “Americans are in an arms race with themselves. There was just as much a run on guns as on toilet paper in the beginning of the pandemic.” Forbes reports that sales have only recently fallen back toward pre-pandemic levels.

Road rage is not a federal crime category, so most law enforcement agencies don’t keep stats on it, but they’re starting to now. Dallas, for example, reported 45 people wounded and 11 dead last year, per the Times. Austin has reported 15 shootings so far this year, with three people hit. Everytown for Gun Safety says 500 Americans were injured or killed in road rage shootings in 2021, compared to about 300 in 2019. “Only in this country is someone shot and injured or killed every 17 hours in a road rage incident," a researcher with the group tells the Times. (More road rage stories.)

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