Of all the stories about people flipping out, I have to believe that road rage incidents are the ones we all can understand the most. I mean, how many of us didn’t get pissed at another driver doing something stupid? Maybe you got cut off or maybe they rushed to get in front of you, only to slow to a crawl while traffic passes to the side so you can’t go around them. Regardless, I sure get it.
See, I hate driving in Atlanta. Unfortunately, I had to take my daughter up there for a medical appointment not long ago. The trip required me to drive on I-285 several times where I expected to see a guy playing a flamethrower-guitar on the top of a vehicle at pretty much any point. The traffic was awful.
So, I get Atlanta road rage could potentially be an issue, and apparently, it is.
Traditionally, those navigating Atlanta’s highways had a bevy of nonverbal tools to let other motorists know they’re driving like jerks. There was the horn, the incredulous stare, the brake check or, in drastic cases, the bird. But these days, you’ve got to be crazy to employ any of these. Sure, highways have always been dangerous, with drivers speeding, tailgating, texting and driving drunk. Some are even doing all at once. But there’s another danger on the asphalt — gunplay. So far in 2021, there have been at least 26 cases of a driver shooting at another on metro Atlanta’s roads. Seven people have been killed in the midst of that rolling carnage and at least a dozen have been wounded. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution crime reporter Alexis Stevens at first compiled the list, although I found several others, and, I’m sure, she’ll find even more.) This is happening as the city of Atlanta is dealing with a plague of gun violence. So far this year, shootings are up 35% compared to last year and, as of Tuesday, there have been 52 homicides. Somehow, it seems as if street racing and murder have co-mingled.
Now, that’s a lot of road rage violence, to be sure, but let’s put some things in perspective, if we can.
First, there are 26 cases of a driver shooting at another driver this year, which sounds like a lot, but there are a lot of variables missing from this discussion.
For one thing, out of how many cars? Between I-75, I-85, and I-285 alone I saw tens of thousands of different vehicles, plus many more on the state highways and local roads. I mean, the population of Atlanta is almost half a million people, plus all the people driving through the city on their way to somewhere else.
If there are just 26 cases of such shootings, that actually sounds like it’s still fairly rare, all things considered.
Plus, what’s not mentioned is anything about the shooters. Well, it’s because no one really knows if it’s road rage or not.
There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why this is happening. A few months ago, a couple of readers contacted me to ask if a serial killer was roaming the roads. I dismissed it and still kind of do. Police say there is no pattern in the shootings — no similarities in the cars, descriptions of suspects, or weapons. I surmise that it’s a mixture of volatile ingredients: testosterone, gasoline and gun powder. Road rage. I say testosterone because there’s no sign that anyone of the female persuasion is opening fire, although three women have been wounded.
So we don’t even know if these were actual road rage cases?
It sounds to me like the media needs something else to try and freak out about.
Granted, road rage is far more likely than a serial killer roaming the streets of Atlanta, but without even knowing definitively if that was the cause, how can we even think about addressing the issue? We don’t know if these are regular folks who snap, violent felons who can’t handle being “dissed” on the roads, some new kind of gang initiation, or anything else. Without that information, what can we do?
Still, if you’re driving in Atlanta, you might want to keep your gun handy. Not in case someone cuts you off, but in case someone decides to open fire in your direction and you need to defend yourself.