‘Recipe for disaster’: A deeper dive into the alarming increase in road rage incidents across the US

Taylor police reported at least 108 road rage incidents in 2.5 years

Road rage is rising, but what's driving the increase is unclear. In 2021 nearly two-thirds of road rage incidents involving a gun ended with someone hurt or killed.

TAYLOR, Mich. – Road rage incidents are sharply on the rise, and police in Metro Detroit and across the United States are still trying to figure out what exactly is to blame.

The COVID pandemic brought many new stresses into our lives, and perhaps as a result, tensions are high, and gun violence is up.

Taylor road rage shooting

Taylor police officers recently reported a very tense road rage situation.

“Don’t step out just yet,” an officer yelled to a man who had just fired a shot at another driver. “Don’t step out just yet. Stay just like you are, man.”

The man in question shot another person on Telegraph Road near I-94, police said. The weapon used was right at the man’s fingertips during a road rage incident.

“He gets out of the vehicle, and the loaded firearm, we found out later, was right underneath the driver’s seat,” Taylor police Detective Alex Stellini said.

The driver wasn’t cooperating with authorities, and the officer pleaded with him to stop escalating the situation.

“What’s the problem?” the officer asked. “Please, don’t do this.”

Police said the man cut off another driver on Telegraph Road. That driver honked at him one time, so he turned around and responded by firing a gun, according to authorities.

He didn’t even hesitate to pull out a gun and use it, officials said.

“Not from what we are seeing here,” Stellini said. “As soon as he is even with the vehicle, we are not seeing anything that provoked this on their end. He does fire that round into the car.”

The shooter could have killed the two adults in the front or the teenager in the back, police said.

Just last week, another road rage situation sparked a brawl between two drivers at a Taylor gas station, officials said.

Road rage statistics

New research from Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund found that 500 people were shot, injured, or killed in United States road rage incidents last year.

That translates to 44 victims per month, or one driver shot or killed every 17 hours, according to the data.

From 2016-2019, about one-third of road rage incidents resulted in injury or death, but now, that percentage is up to nearly two-thirds, the research says.

The monthly average number of people who were shot, killed, or wounded in road rage incidents involving a gun doubled from 22 per month before the pandemic to 44 per month in 2021, according to Everytown’s data.

Fewer than 300 people per year from 2016 to 2019 were shot and wounded or killed in road rage incidents, but in 2021, that number rose to more than 500 people, the study found. That’s the highest level in six years, officials said.

Drivers, police chief wary of road dangers

Lyft driver Adrian Wheeler said she’s terrified on the road.

“I am a Lyft driver, so I experience road rage every day,” Wheeler said. “It is prevalent. I would say more than half the drivers have it -- rude, cut you off, and then will be combative.”

Taylor mother Marissa Kasham said she worries about road rage drivers every time she’s out with her family.

“I tell my husband, even if he gets upset, ‘Calm down,’” Kasham said. “I don’t trust people. They will shoot you right on the side of the road.”

In Taylor, there have been more than 108 road rage incidents in the past two and a half years, officials said.

“Reported 108, and we know that number is probably going to be substantially higher than that,” Taylor police Chief John Blair said. “I would think it is a high number for anyone, regardless, and it doesn’t appear the numbers are coming down at all.”

Blair warned that road rage incidents are almost a daily issue and said drivers are pulling out guns more than ever before.

“It’s not just someone cutting you off, and screaming at you, and hurling insults,” Blair said. “This is actual, physical contact between people.”

He said drivers need to put their phones down, make sure they aren’t distracted, and avoid cutting off others on the road. Anyone who does get into a road rage situation should get away and call 911.

Blair recommends approaching situations under the assumption that any other driver could be armed.

“We would recommend that because you don’t know,” Blair said. “We are seeing so many of these freeway shootings and road rage shootings, in general. It seems to be very common right now.”

Wheeler said her son had a gun pulled on him.

“Somebody cut him off at a light,” Wheeler said. “While he was at the next light, the guy was creeping up on him with a gun, and he had to go through the light.

“Road rage -- it is very serious. These people are very angry, very on the edge, and very desperate.”

Blair said there are more guns than Americans, and called that a “recipe for disaster.”

About the Authors:

Local 4 Defender Shawn Ley is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has been with Local 4 News for more than a decade.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.