Now more than ever we are seeing serious cases of road rage that are leading to damage to cars and even deaths. Is this a new phenomenon? Are people just more unhinged than ever before? Let’s take a look at recent cases in Florida and across America to understand what’s really going on and how to stay safe.
On Tuesday morning on my way to my 9-5, there was an upcoming accident that just occurred. It was one of those situations where the crash had just happened and it makes Florida driving even more wonky than usual. If you live in Florida you know that Florida traffic is like driving for NASCAR. I was attempting to avoid a problem and ended up accidentally cutting off another car. It was completely fine, there was no real issue. I get cut off in traffic at least 10 times anytime I drive. We stopped and the person driving that vehicle proceeded to exit his car and approach my car where he began punching my window and screaming. I was caught off guard, to say the least. His rage was completely disproportionate to the situation. Unfortunately, Florida does not have front-facing license plates so to obtain his I would have had to exit my car, which was not going to happen. It was concerning though and it has made me wonder why people are behaving however they want regardless of safety or even the law.
A woman was shot in the neck just yesterday in West Palm beach over a road rage situation. We do not have all the details at this time and more information will be released. The police stated that the female in one car, along with 3 males in another were arguing over driving and that this went on through a few stop lights. Once in the intersection of Okeechobee, one of the males in the vehicle shot the female in the neck. Surprisingly although the female sustained major injuries she followed them while calling 911 allowing her to read the license plate to the police which subsequently lead the police to the vehicle in question. The police claimed the subjects in question are not all cooperating and that they gathered “a lot of evidence” from this situation.
Another man in Hialeah was shot and killed after a road rage incident that occurred last week. 60-year-old Juan Alberto Rocha allegedly blocked another vehicle prohibiting them to be able to move. Alberto exited his vehicle and approached the blocked vehicle to confront the driver and the driver in that vehicle shot him. Alberto was taken to the hospital where he ultimately succame to his injuries. The driver who shot Alberto has not been named or charged with any crimes to date. Police are stating that the driver who shot Alberto may be covered by the “stand your ground law”. This law allows the use of deadly force in certain circumstances. The stand your ground law allows individuals to use deadly force if they reasonably believe that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to themselves or others. As with most criminal offenses we do not have access to all the details. It has not been noted if the driver was threatened or how close Alberto even made it physically to his vehicle.
This law can be tricky as everyone’s determination of imminent death, danger, and harm can be different. We all perceive threats and danger differently, sometimes it is not so obvious. In the 2022 Florida statutes on what qualifies for use of deadly force I found the following statement; “(c) The person who uses or threatens to use defensive force is engaged in a criminal activity or is using the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle to further a criminal activity”. At the end of the day is up to police officers on the scene and our court system. Nevertheless, it is becoming a bit scary on South Florida roads.
Per yearly studies done by AAA, 2021 was the deadliest year for road rage. 44 people per month in America were shot and wounded or killed due to road rage gun violence. The percentage of gun/road rage-related injuries went up 98% from 2017 to 2021. And if you are wondering where Florida ranks on the scale of gun-related road rage injuries? Second. Texas takes the number one spot followed by California, Tennesse, and Wisconsin. So when everyone talks about how Florida drivers are the worst drivers in America there is some validity to it!
AAA has released suggestions on how to deal with road rage. They suggest that you should not engage with the other parties that are escalating which includes honking, yelling, tailgating, etc. Do not make eye contact or “fuel the fire”. This can be hard especially when you’re not in the wrong at all. You never know the temperament of people these days or what they may or may not be carrying on them. It’s not even worth it these days to do anything else but try to ignore people. If you feel unsafe or you are being followed you can call 911, or even drive to a police station. It is highly recommended if you are being followed to not go home or to your place of work or wherever your destination is. You do not want to give anyone that is escalating or threatening you any more information on you. A retired police officer even suggested never using bumper stickers or anything that could give away more information about yourself. Often bumper stickers can be gender specific having quotes such as “women make great leaders, your following one right now”. The intentions are good and positive and just like hydro flasks and yetis it’s another way to express yourself. Now it seems you cannot be careful enough!
If someone damages your car or causes harm to you or your vehicle, you can call the police. Even if the drivers subsequently drive off you can file a report and have it documented and maybe get help from insurance if necessary. People seem to forget that we do not live in a lawless nation. It is against the law to strike someone or hit someone else’s car….intentionally or not. It seems that people are taking the law into their own hands and acting like they are above the consequences.
If you find yourself engaging in some road rage it’s probably time to take a step back and see what’s really causing that behavior. Maybe it’s financial stress or your always running late. If you find you are extremely short-tempered and might be a harm to yourself or others you can look into therapy or anger management. This might seem extreme but we have to look at the fact that deaths are increasing from people’s morning commute. Most people can benefit from therapy, especially nowadays.
Unfortunately, many people are turning to other avenues other than the police to find justice. More and more we are finding videos being posted of road ragers, accidents, and license plates. We are in the age of filming everything and taking matters into your own hands. The internet now more than ever is full of sleuths and hackers and if you are unable to find the information you need yourself, there is always someone who can. Videos are posted every single day calling out “bad” behavior such as road rage or even illegal behavior that the police have not been able to resolve themselves. I have seen plenty of TikTokers find out a person’s name, address, firstborn, and what they ate for breakfast from a 30-second video off of an iPhone. They often call these people out or even call their place of employment to seek justice for whatever may have occurred.
Wherever you’re going or whatever you’re doing, the number one priority is to arrive safely. Leave a little earlier than normal and be aware of your surroundings when driving. It is a good idea to have your phone in a place where it is easily accessible. Don’t have it lost in the depths of your purse or a book bag. Make sure to try and document any road rage situations you encounter and don’t feel afraid to call the police on a road rager. You never know if someone’s road rage can turn deadly.