Police are warning the public about an increase in road rage altercations due to pandemic-related stress.
Road rage, while a problem before the pandemic, has gotten worse over the past year because of emotional stress. Police say they are beginning to set up task forces to track road rage incidents and alert and educate the public about the issue.
In many situations, road rage altercations can start with a minor fender bender or argument and then turn deadly. Angry drivers may respond by throwing objects at vehicles, shooting at them, ramming them with their cars or sideswiping them, which can lead to fatal outcomes.
For Marlin Smith, this was unfortunately the case. After an SUV cut Smith off at a busy intersection, he honked his horn, which led to the driver of the SUV getting out of the car and arguing with Smith. In the heat of the moment, the SUV driver got back into his car and ran Smith over. Smith died the day after from blunt force injuries. His death was ruled a homicide.
Smith’s daughter, Kaycee Frost, said “Road rage has gotten completely out of control. You can’t just stop and honk your horn or flip the bird anymore because you could potentially lose your life.”
According to a recent report by the organization Everytown for Gun Safety, road rage fatalities in 2020 were nearly double the monthly average for the previous four years. On average, nearly 42 people a month were shot and killed or wounded in road rage incidents.
At the current rate, Everytown projects more than 500 road rage-related deaths or injuries with guns in 2021.
Sarah Burd-Sharps, the group’s research director, said that the numbers are equivalent to someone being shot and killed or injured every 18 hours.
“The pandemic has brought all sorts of new stressors into our lives. And gun sales have surged. Many people have suffered from uncertainty, job loss. I think those stressors make you have a shorter fuse. If a gun is right there in your car, these incidents which would just be unpleasant can turn deadly,” she said.