When Amaro, the mother of two minors, tried to get her car into the line to buy food at a McDonald’s restaurant in the city of Richmond in northern California, she never imagined that she would be the victim of a traffic fight that could cost her life.
“You would never have blocked my way, stupid…!, a woman yelled at her from the window of her car and then unleashed a barrage of profanity and called her ugly.
But that was not all, the irritated driver began to throw objects, including a bottle of water, at Amaro’s car, not caring that her 3- and 5-year-old children were on board.
What’s more, the enraged woman revved the engine and rear-ended the car.
And not happy, he ran her over and dragged her across the parking lot more than 150 feet before coming to a stop. She immediately got out of her vehicle and punched Amaro several times.
According to data from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), lawsuits between car drivers related to traffic have increased during the pandemic.
The most recent information from the first 9 months of 2021 showed that there were more fights between drivers in that period, than during the same period of time in any year of the past decade.
Between January 1 and September 30, 2021, the LAPD reported 535 incidents against 401 in the same period of 2020. This is an increase of 33.4%.
The LAPD defines incidents of rage behind the wheel as a criminal offense in which a driver on the road shows a “willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others.” What is known in English as road rage it does not mean simply following another car as it speeds through traffic.
Nearly half of all reported road rage incidents this year were also recorded by police as aggravated assaults.
Hateful incidents on the road bring the potential for greater danger. In 2021, 105 people involved in these violent encounters flaunted a weapon in their own vehicle or while approaching the other car. In the year 2020, 62 incidents involved a weapon.
On Thursday, February 24, a man was shot to death in an incident on Highway 15 in the city of Victorville, which authorities described as the product of road rage.
The drivers had an incident while driving and stopped at a freeway exit. Upon exiting the vehicles, the driver of a sedan pulled out a gun; and fired multiple bullets at the other. The victim, a Hispanic male, was traveling in a GMC. The assailant then fled the scene in his sedan.
predisposed to fight
Lili Trujillo Pucket, founder and director of the non-profit organization Street Racing Kills, and who in collaboration with the LAPD and the California Highway Patrol, gives workshops to people involved in traffic-related crimes like illegal racing and road rage, said that maybe with the pandemic, people are very hysterical and predisposed to participate in a lawsuit.
“The truth is that it is not worth it. The other driver can bring a weapon, a gun, a knife, a razor and can hurt and kill you”.
And he recalled an incident of fury between two drivers that led to a fight with blows. One of them pulled out a knife, stabbed the other driver and fled.
“The victim recovered, but as a result of the stab wound, he lost movement in his arm. Today he doesn’t get tired of regretting having put you for you with the other driver.
Trujillo Pucket said that it is never good to participate in a confrontation, for traffic reasons.
“You don’t know who you’re going to run into. You don’t know them. With the pandemic, many people bought weapons. So it’s scary to get into a fight with another driver. The best thing we can do when meeting an aggressive driver is not to look at them and continue on our way.”.
What causes the increase in violence?
Dr. Jorge Partida del Toro, chief of psychology at the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, said the pandemic has caused a lot of insecurities and very strong tension.
“Expenses for basic products and services have increased alarmingly. The work environment has been very unstable. People have lost jobs they’ve had for years.”
If we add to this the fear of parents that their children will catch covid in schools, the lack of vaccines for children under 5 years of age, the conflicts in the couple due to being locked up and not having personal space, we see that there are many stressors.
“We also don’t give ourselves permission to talk about our emotional intelligence and express what happens to us.”
While activities that help us reduce stress like going to church, going out to a restaurant, going to a concert, are still very limited.
Dr. Partida adds that as a consequence of all these factors, racial tension is much higher. “People feel threatened by minority people.”
He points out that the best thing to do in any traffic incident or any other type of incident that could lead to a confrontation or a fatal outcome is not to act impulsively.
“It is very important to give ourselves half a second to breathe deeply, think and focus. If we do, it is almost impossible for us to act in a dangerous way.”
Dr. Partida recalled the case of a father of 5 children who was recently murdered in Texas when he went to claim that his 15-year-old daughter was being bullied on social media.
Brandon Curtis, 35, was shot more than once by a 20-year-old boy, the brother of the student who allegedly bullied his daughter.
How to avoid road rage
With 33 cases, the LAPD reported that downtown Los Angeles is where the highest number of traffic violence incidents occurred in the first 9 months of last year. The second largest number of incidents has been in the Van Nuys neighborhood in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley.
Last month, a 22-year-old man died in downtown Los Angeles after a heated confrontation with another driver.
But road rage is not exclusive to motorists. Bus drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians can also fall victim to drivers who lose control in rage.
On February 24, 2021, a bicyclist on Calle Quinta del Centro was chased by a man in a car. When the driver caught up with him, he got out of his vehicle and tackled the bicyclist to the ground. Last year, 11 people on bicycles were victims of road rage in Los Angeles.
In an effort to reduce violence between drivers, the Los Angeles Police Department recommends not cutting off other vehicles, inappropriate use of high beams, and avoiding eye contact if another driver appears angry.