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2021 is on track to be the deadliest on record for road rage, data shows

Driving a Car
Posted at 3:24 PM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 15:24:10-04

(WSYM) — At times, driving on Michigan freeways can be a bit stressful, leading to tense situations or even arguments, and now more often than ever before, those arguments are ending in gunfire.

A simple road rage incident led to gunfire last fall in Dearborn, the single bullet leaving a hole in the driver's side door barely missing Aboudy Elhadi.

Aboudy Elhadi, on Dearborn Rage Incident

“It was ready to shoot. He just pulled it out and shot,” said Elhadi.

Elhadi was driving when he saw a car driving recklessly; he decided to roll down his window and exchange a few words, not thinking it would lead to gunshots.

Nearly 80% of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression or the road rage behind the wheel at least once in the past 30 days.

“What did I do to you to deserve to get shot? Like swear, throw fingers, this is normal things. But for you to raise a gun and shoot at people? This is not normal at all,” said Elhadi.

Elhadi was lucky to escape without injury. Some road rage shootings have been fatal, including one this week in Troy, where a 55-year-old Detroit Fire Department lieutenant was shot and killed.

Lt. Mike Shaw, Michigan State Police

"We’re actually getting in arguments and shooting each other over not using a turn signal,” said Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw.

In his 2 decades with the Michigan State Police, Lt. Shaw says he’s never seen this level of violence on the roads. So far this year, Michigan State Police have responded to 26 freeway shootings in metro Detroit, 4 of them fatal. Seven resulted in injuries, and 13 of them were road rage.

What is road rage?

"This is a huge problem we’re seeing not only here in Detroit, across the state of Michigan, but the entire country,” said Lt. Shaw.

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, in the U.S. there have been nearly double the number of road rage deaths and injuries in 2021, compared to any other year on record, estimating that every 18 hours, a person is either injured or killed in a road rage shooting.

"If current trends continue, 2021 is on track to be the deadliest on record in terms of road rage," said Sarah Burd-Sharps, director of research for Everytown for Gun Safety.

Burd- Sharps says there are likely multiple factors that have led to the increase, including stress from the pandemic and record gun sales. She believes more could be done to bring the number of shootings down.

"There are policy solutions," Burd- Sharps said. "Not trying to say no guns, but saying let’s go at this responsibly. Let's have policies and laws that avoid a situation where a loaded gun is available in a tense situation to somebody who should never have a gun in the first place.”

Sarah Burd-Sharps, director of research for Everytown for Gun Safety

Lt. Shaw says the focus needs to be on conflict resolution and learning how to deescalate tense situations.

“I think it’s always interesting where the gun is the focal point on it. We need to bring it back to the person,” Shaw said. "The gun is just a gun. It’s the person that brings it out there and does illegal things with it.”

In June, after 2-year-old Brison Christian was gunned down on I-75 in a non-road rage shooting, Detroit police announced Operation Brison, working with other departments to increase patrols on freeways.

"Our Metro South Post which covers Wayne County got over 800 illegal guns last year. That’s probably 3 times the amount we’ve gotten before," Shaw said. "We’re going to pass that again this year."

Through May 2021 there have been 353 road rage incidents with a gun with 51% of incidents resulting in injury or death

Shaw says law enforcement alone can’t solve the problem.

"We've also had registered CPL owners pull out a handgun and shoot somebody because they were upset,” Shaw said. "We need to get back to the basics and just let things go.”

Lacking witness cooperation, Shaw says suspects have only been identified in less than half of the 26 freeway shootings this year. Last year, Elhadi’s video led to the shooter being arrested. He says next time, he’ll avoid confrontation when behind the wheel.

"You see that gun, you run, you don’t take that video,” said Elhadi.

"We need to get the community involved and finally get them tired of it, and we haven't reached that point yet,” Shaw said.

Everytown is now projecting more than 800 road rage shootings for 2021 with roughly 500 people being injured or killed.