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As traffic has gone back to normal after over a year of coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, and with it, all of its maladies — like road rage. With more cars and other vehicles on the road, “the likelihood of an incident occurring is higher due to traffic or people being mad trying to get home,” Officer Norma Eisenman, a department public information officer, reportedly.
A 2016 survey by AAA found that nearly 80% of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression, or road rage while behind the wheel.
According to the Los Angeles Police Department, there is a difference between aggressive driving and road rage. Aggressive driving, which includes speeding or riding close to someone’s bumper, is a traffic violation that can result in a ticket. Observing that kind of behavior, an officer could have probable cause to make a traffic stop.
Road rage, on the other hand, is defined as when someone commits an assault with a vehicle or other dangerous weapon due to an incident that happened while driving. This is a criminal offense that can be prosecuted. The LAPD classifies road rage as requiring “willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others.”
According to LAPD data quoted by Crosstown, there were 172 incidents of road rage in Los Angeles from Jan. 1 to Apr. 15. This represents a nearly 7% increase from the 161 in the same time last year. In Mar. 2021 alone, there were 53 road rage incidents reported to police, compared with 35 in the same month last year. The LAPD recorded 20 incidents in the first 15 days of Apr., up from just 12 during the same time period in 2020. Moreover, men were overwhelmingly more likely to be involved in incidents of road rage. There were 108 reports that involved a man so far this year compared to only 58 with a woman as the suspect. (Gender was unknown on six occasions).
The Crosstown report cited an Apr. road rage incident, when an angry Ashley Tamika Greenwade shouted “Anybody wanna die now? Anybody?” as she pointed a loaded gun out the window and then fired in the air through her sunroof at the intersection of Fairfax Avenue and Olympic Boulevard in the community of Carthay. Greenwade was arrested and later charged with several firearms offenses.
While this is an outrageous situation, it is not an isolated one. Data gathered by SafeMotorist.com determined that 66% of traffic fatalities were directly linked to instances of aggressive driving. However, like in the aforementioned case, 37% of those deaths were caused by a firearm and not an actual driving accident, which proves the point that instances of road rage often end in very tragic circumstances. In California, aggressive behavior, also known as road rage, has been added to the list of behaviors which are now included in the state’s reckless behavior laws.
The LAPD has a roster of actions that it warns could “provoke drivers to commit acts of violence,” and advises people to avoid. These include cutting people off, tailgating, improper use of high-beam headlights, and using obscene gestures.
ABC7 did a deep dive into 2018 California Highway Patrol stats and found that nearly two-thirds of fatal crashes in Southern California were caused by factors associated with road rage. Quoted in the same article, California is the fourth worst state to drive in, coming in 42nd for traffic congestion and 48th for road quality.