At some point every driver will blunder on the road and irritate other nearby motorists. While instances of slow driving in the fast lane, cutting off another car or waiting too long at a green light often result in little more than a honk or shaking fist from the offended driver, Dallas has seen an increase of angry motorists taking their annoyance too far.
The city experienced five road-rage-related shootings in the last month, several of which included a car carrying children. Families have been run off the freeway onto small one-way streets and blocked off by irate drivers. The result has more frequently become shots fired, either by the road-rager or the person on the receiving end of the anger.
“Many police departments across the country are seeing an uptick in road rage incidents,” Dallas Police Department Deputy Chief Michael Igo told Dallas Express. “Although the increase in incidents cannot be pointed to one particular factor, there are several theories police departments believe that are contributing to these incidents.”
One of those theories is that people have spent a year-and-a-half working from home and are returning to the streets in droves, causing traffic and congestion.
“This congestion has led to higher tensions, increased driver interaction, and impatience by many drivers leading to aggressive driving, accidents, assaults, and even shooting incidents,” Igo continued.
The Dallas Police Department is responding by elevating its presence on the freeways identified as likely places for road rage incidents to occur. A similar initiative, the Strategic Targeting Against Road Rage (STARR) program, dispatched unmarked police cars to patrol for aggressive drivers – until the program lost funding.
After the past month of road rage shootings, the police department wants to see the STARR program reintroduced. According to Igo, motorists speeding and driving aggressively will be targeted for enforcement efforts.
The PD told WFAA News that victims are often clueless as to why a minor driving mishap escalates to such a degree.
“The public’s concern over aggressive driving/road rage incidents has grown,” Igo said. “To address this concern, the department will continue to inform the public of its efforts to enforce road rage incidents in the City of Dallas.”
As frustrating as road-ragers can be, Igo encourages victims of aggressive drivers to make every attempt to stay out of their way, maintain adequate distance and call 911 to report the driver.
“It is important that during this call the reporting person provide as much detail about the incident, driver, and vehicle (license plate) as safely as possible,” Igo said. “This will assist responding officers to the location for quick identification of the violator.”
While the department works to gather the resources and manpower for freeing Dallas’ freeways and responsible drivers from road rage, Igo says that motorists should also be cautious and responsible in their use of high-beam headlights, avoid challenging or provoking aggressive drivers by speeding up or preventing lane changes and be highly selective in using vehicle horns, as they can only increase the aggression of a driver experiencing road rage.
“Avoid long eye contact with an aggressive driver,” the Deputy Chief said. “This can be viewed by an aggressive driver as an act of aggression. If followed by an aggressive driver, drive to a police station or another public place occupied by many people.”