‘We have nationally representative data showing that drivers who have guns in their vehicles are more aggressive,’ researcher says
Last year was the worst year for deadly road rage incidents since tracking began, data shows. In 2021, 522 people were killed or injured in road rage incidents.
Research from Everytown, an anti-gun violence nonprofit, shows that during the pandemic, road rage incidents became deadlier and more common. Last year, 728 road rage incidents involved a firearm, 62 per cent of which led to someone being injured or killed. In total, 131 people died.
In 2020, 702 road rage incidents involved a gun and 49 per cent led to an injury or death – 102 people were killed.
Everytown’s investigation was based on the shooting report database built by the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive. The group started tracking road rage gun violence in 2016.
Everytown’s senior director of research, Sarah Burd-Sharps, told CBS News that “driving certainly gets heated in plenty of other countries. And we’ve looked at road rage in a number of countries, but only in the US is someone shot and injured or killed every 17 hours, is what we’ve calculated, in a road rage incident”.
“You can’t ignore the record increase in gun sales. In the 10 years through 2019, there were about 13.5 million guns sold” every year, she said.
“So over a decade, it was pretty stable. In 2020, it jumped up to 22 million sold and in 2021, 19 million, so millions more guns,” she added.
In a 2017 study that appeared in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 60 people were assigned scenarios to drive. They had either a tennis racket or a gun in the passenger’s seat. Brad Bushman, the author of the study, said those with a gun were more aggressive.
The Ohio State University professor of communication told CBS that “we have nationally representative data showing that drivers who have guns in their vehicles are more aggressive drivers than those who do not”.
“So when people are in a car, they have a goal, right? The goal is to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B,’ presumably as quickly as possible. And if anything frustrates that it increases the likelihood of aggression, and if there’s a gun in the vehicle, that makes a lethal event more likely,” he added.
Aiden Leos, 6, was killed in a road rage incident in California on 21 May 2021. On his way to kindergarten, Aiden was killed when another driver opened fire on his mother’s vehicle after allegedly being cut off.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement on 30 March that “a monster with a gun murdered a little boy on his way to kindergarten — because he was cut off on the freeway”.
“The callousness of this crime is unspeakable,” he added.