Guns and Road Rage

Guns and Road Rage

There always seems to be some inconsiderate jerk dangerously cutting you off in traffic, quickly switching lanes in front of you, and making you angry. Some bozo on their cell phone oblivious to those around them, talking and slowing way down in the left lane as you want to pass. Some young, inexperienced driver tailgating your car’s bumper at light speed, slamming on their brakes while yelling profanities. An older-than-Methuselah, coffin-dodger driving slower than a snail in molasses in a 45-mile-per-hour zone, making you mad and late to pick up your lottery winnings. Then there’s the selfish, cocky loser presenting a finger digit in the air to remind you of his driving IQ. How do you respond to Road Rage, especially if there is a gun? I want to offer you some responses and suggestions.

We all have experienced some crazy nut job on the road or a dangerous, selfish driver causing us a lot of stress and being inconsiderate of our vehicle space and our road right-of-way. Some studies estimate that over half of all drivers have experienced Road Rage at some point because of aggressive driving by others or themselves. This is a cause of accidents and death in some cases. But what if you are legally carrying a handgun with your carry permit in your vehicle at the time. Do you have to put up with this annoying, discourteous, unacceptable and selfish driving behavior from this jerk? How do you handle the situation, especially since you have a powerful means to deal with it? Do you pull your gun as a show of power or threaten the idiot? Maybe fire a round in the ground to let him know you mean business and to leave you alone. Do you make a turn and drive away in another direction?  What are your considerations in the brief time you encounter this disrespectful person? What do you do?

Road Rage Reality

Well, we have to recognize that we are talking “Road Rage” in the above situations and it really exists. But what is it? Does it really happen that often? Could it even remotely apply to “moi” when carrying? Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it simply as “anger and aggressive behavior by a driver who is upset by how another person is driving.” Some go further and say that it is a motorist’s uncontrolled anger that is provoked by another motorist’s irritating act and is expressed in aggressive VIOLENT behavior. This can and has involved producing firearms and/or firing them.

First, recognize that there are thoughtless and disrespectful people like the above folks that do drive a vehicle and can annoy and even threaten you in this world. Sadly, just like those selfish, uncaring, and dangerous folks, there will always be evil, bad, and dangerous people… and they do drive cars. I hope you are not a victim or even a perpetrator, with or without an involved gun. Also, I hope none of us are involved in a Road Rage encounter, but statistics and history show otherwise. Road Rage and aggressive driving is recently on the rise according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and is a significant concern for many drivers. They report that “at least 1,500 people a year are seriously injured or killed in senseless traffic disputes.”

Harvard University’s School of Public Health (HSPH) did two Road Rage studies. The first study in 2002 by Miller, Azrael & Hemenway reported that “Motorists with guns are more likely to act aggressively.” Now wait a minute, what’s involved here? Well, this study used data from a telephone survey in Arizona and self-reported actions by individuals. Even though I have studied Management at Harvard and do not want to be disrespectful to this fine university, I have to question if this is a statistically valid and reliable sample and methodology. Certainly it does, however, get your attention and make headlines. They found that “self-reported hostile actions (e.g. obscene gestures, cursing or shouting, aggressively tailgating) were more common among men, young adults, and individuals who carried a firearm in their car.”

The second HSPH study in 2006 by Hemenway, Vriniotis & Miller studied over 2,400 licensed drivers’ responses to questions about their own aggressive driving. This study found that 17% of respondents admitted to making obscene or rude gestures in the past year, and another 9% admitted to aggressively following too closely. They said that “males, young adults, binge drinkers, those ever arrested for a non-traffic violation, and motorists who had been in a vehicle in which there was a gun, were more likely to engage in forms of road rage” (my bold and underlining.) Before accepting this as a generalized “truth” and drawing conclusions, I would like more details about this study and some concrete examples to review, especially about riding along with someone who happened to be armed in a vehicle. However, it is one study and makes you think about Road Rage and its application to your own actions when carrying.

While we should be positive, see and focus on the good in others, we must remove our head from the sand and see that there are also bad, evil, reckless, manipulative, self-centered morons driving automobiles. This is even more complicated and dangerous when a gun is introduced into the mix.

Road Rage Behavioral Considerations & Our Actions

As difficult as it may be, we must have the discipline and self-control to deal with our anger, the obnoxious and dangerous drivers, and any stressful situation we might face. This is true whether we are in a vehicle with a gun or not, or on the street without a gun, or while carrying or shopping with a concealed or open carry gun. This is certainly simple and easy to say, but complex to practice and implement with the many situational variables and dangers. Introduce a handgun into almost any situation and it will escalate and there are life-threatening possibilities. Most of us recognize this, but practically dealing with it often can be a major challenge. After all this scumbag is wrong and our emotions speak loudly to us saying he needs to know it and be dealt with. But, our logic says we want to AVOID trouble at all costs, DE-ESCALATE the situation, but BE PREPARED just in case. Of course, it is important for us to accept that we are in control of our own actions, behaviors, and how we respond to stressful situations, especially deadly-force encounters. No matter how wrong the other person is or how stressed we are at another’s stupid, inconsiderate, self-centered behaviors and actions (while in or outside of a vehicle or with or without a gun), we must control ourselves and how we respond. And not just for legal reasons. Use of deadly force is NOT always nor frequently the answer. Just as non-deadly force may also not be an optimal response, but usually (not always) we should try the non-deadly force first… very dependent upon the situation.

My point is that we alone determine our specific actions to ANY situation we might find ourselves in, given the many factors involved. Even in Road Rage. But remember we always MUST justify our use of deadly force and prove that our life was threatened, that we were in fear for our life, and that imminent death or serious bodily injury could have occurred. Not an easy task, considering we usually must have a preponderance of evidence. In some states, we are not innocent until proven guilty, but rather we as the defender must take the initiative to prove our use of deadly force was justified against an attacker. Sometimes the burden of proof for guilt does not rest with a state prosecutor, but with the accused to prove their innocence. We could spend a lot of time and money in court trying to justify and prove our righteous use of deadly force in a Road Rage event.

It is important to recognize the influences on our own behavior and how delimited our personal experiences are relative to the total possible set of experiences that we could have. In other words, our response is determined by both things we easily recognize and by other elements we may not recognize and that may even be subliminal or sub-conscious to us. We have to use our brain’s prefrontal cortex and make logical decisions and take the best action, not emotional decisions using our brain’s amygdala. Rather than get into proven behavioral stimulus-responses, it is best to keep it basic, especially for me. I understand simply that everyone behaves in a way that makes sense to themselves, based on their total being of the sum of their experiences, training, education, family influences, values, background, priorities, goals, inherited traits, geographic influences, ad infinitum. Add to this the fact that we do not know what we do not know. Since we have not experienced first-hand the many possible alternatives in the many possible situations for any event, sometimes we assume we have the understanding and capability to handle the unique situations we have not yet faced. But, we have very delimited exposure to the vast possible problems and situational variables and possible actions. Accepting this, the simple Road Rage incident has developed into a much larger and more complex and challenging issue. Bottom Line: How do we personally deal with our anger and the Road Rage in an acceptable and effective manner? 

Responses to Road Rage when Armed

As I said above AVOID the situation, even Road Rage, before it starts if at all possible. Remember, you are probably going to have to justify and show your actions and use of force were absolutely necessary. If there is an aggressive, inconsiderate jerk-driver, drive away from them, retreat, do not engage them. You know that the best way to “win” any fight (verbal, physical, or gunfight) is to not even be involved in it. It is not a win-win situation. It is not even a win-lose situation, but a lose-lose situation. You and the other party have nothing to gain, but a lot to lose, especially if a gun is involved. You must make every attempt to NOT present your gun, unless your life is threatened or you could be seriously injured. Do not fire a round into the air or into the ground. Know the laws of your state and jurisdiction. Of course, situations vary so be judicious. Even if the guy/gal is obviously wrong, accept that you are not the savior for mankind, that you are not out to “right” all “wrongs,” that you are not the dispenser of societal or moral justice, and not a police officer. So if you can leave safely, do it. Do not stop your vehicle. Do not get out of it. Do not fall into the “trap” of the aggressive driver who is luring you into the “fight” and baiting you to demonstrate an equally-abusive and inconsiderate behavior. Do not be intimidated. Relax, keep your cool, and remain calm! In a Road Rage confrontation, be logical and not emotional in your thinking. You are not trying to prove anything to anybody or settle the score. You may have to remind yourself that the jerk driver could be armed, maybe with more firepower than you, and maybe out of your sight and aimed at you. Do not make the “rookie” mistake of letting your self-esteem and machismo becoming involved. It is not a matter of your virility, pride, toughness, or expertise with a gun. Remain calm, cool, and collected. Be disciplined and in control. If the jerk driver persists with the aggressive behavior, you could always drive to the police station or make the phone call to them as the victim and wait for them to arrive.

Be disciplined and logical. Remain calm and in control. Avoid encounters. Be Safe.

Continued Success!

Photo by author.

This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney in your state or jurisdiction for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense, stand your ground law, and concealed carry. This is not legal advice and not legal opinions. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever. Safety First! 

© 2016 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].