Road-rage shooting points to worsening situation

Traffic volume is among factors setting stage for aggressive driving


While Parker police continue searching for the man who shot and wounded another man in a suspected road-rage incident May 23, the issue of aggressive driving in the metro area has resurfaced in a slew of growing traffic-related problems.

The shooting was an extreme end to the fairly common and broad issue of aggressive driving, which leads to road rage. A 2016 study by AAA reported nearly 80 percent of drivers admitted to some form of aggressive driving.

The Colorado State Patrol receives calls on aggressive driving behavior, which can range from speeding to tailgating to drunk driving, through its *CSP (*277) calling service. The system started in 1998 as a way for drivers to report on real-time aggressive driving behavior.

The *CSP system received 87,268 reports on aggressive drivers in 2017, up 4 percent from 2016 and 34 percent from 2014.

That rise can be attributed to a number of factors, traffic volume being one of them. Rob Madden, public information officer for the state patrol, said people calling into the CSP hotline combined with a number of forwarded reports from outside law enforcement agencies have also contributed to the increase.

The growing population and number of out-of-staters in the Denver metro area has had a noticeable effect on traffic volume, according to safe driving expert Ben Baron. And with more drivers, he said, comes more aggressive driving.

“Everything that has happened in the last 10 years has contributed to the likelihood of more incidences,” said Baron, owner and founder of Drive Safe Colorado, the state’s largest driving school. “More traffic certainly leads to going more slowly, which doesn’t necessarily have an impact one way or another, but if you’re in a hurry and can’t get where you’re going, that’s going to increase your stress and that’s going to contribute to your driving.”

Though the number the number of cars on the road does contribute to higher numbers of aggressive driving, Baron said it may not necessarily be the primary factor.

Baron said aggressive driving can often be attributed to new and old Colorado residents misunderstanding the cultural norms and different driving laws. A 2014 study from AutoVantage, a roadside assistance service, reported that drivers from certain cities are significantly less courteous than others, which often leads to road rage.

“You tend to think of certain communities as being naturally aggressive and others as being polite,” Baron said. “You still do have cultural norms at play, but if not everyone is agreeing to the same sets of rules, that can lead to great tension.”

Aggressive driving turns into road rage when another driver becomes involved and is unwilling to back down. Baron said drivers can mitigate road-rage incident by separating themselves from aggressive drivers.

But that doesn’t always work. Some road-ragers will follow other drivers, sometimes to their house, or threaten them with a weapon.

Parker police said in several cases drivers have menaced another driver with a gun, but the shooting, which occurred near the intersection of Parker Road and Crown Crest Boulevard during rush hour, was rare. Never before have Parker police received a report of a shooting related to road rage.

The victim, who has not been identified and was released from a local hospital with a minor injury, has declined any interview requests.

To avoid a potentially harmful situations, Madden and Baron agree the best thing to do is to not get out of the car and drive to a very public place, like a police station.

“We’d like to see people using the phone versus taking action into their own hands,” Madden said. “Any time you try to do something yourself on the road, it becomes a very antagonistic situation.”


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