Frankly, I’m getting tired of having to write columns about road rage. You’d have thought that, as it becomes widely publicized and as more and more citizens are legally carrying guns for protection, most people would be less inclined to let their emotions get the better of them. And you’d expect that those of us who do carry firearms would be particularly aware of the potential consequences.
Apparently, that has not been the case. A 2006 study by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found that “drivers with a firearm in their vehicle may be more prone to anger, and more likely to engage in aggressive driving than those who did not have a gun.”
“Across all demographics and regions, gun carriers were more likely to make obscene gestures at other drivers, aggressively follow them or both,” the study concluded.
OK, that was 2006. What about now? Disturbingly, even over just the last three years (2014 – 2016), there has been a steady increase in all types and categories of road rage involving firearms:
My newly adopted home state of Florida apparently leads the nation in violent road rage altercations involving armed individuals. With 1.7 million active CCW holders (the highest in the country) and with a population of over 20 million, it probably shouldn’t be a surprise. But I still find it depressing.
Most self-defense instructors, and especially those of us at the USCCA, spend a significant amount of time stressing to those in our community the incredible importance of avoiding road rage. Seriously, are you really willing to risk a potentially lethal confrontation by “flipping off” another driver, just to communicate your displeasure with how he or she is driving?
Of course not. But engaging in road rage, regardless of “who started it,” does bring with it a whole host of potential dangers — both physical and legal. A Florida incident that illustrates what often happens involved Jared Bretherick, who was vacationing at Disney World with his family when they were almost side-swiped by a truck driven by Derek Dunning, who then stopped in front of them. Dunning exited his vehicle, but when Bretherick’s father displayed a gun, Dunning retreated.
But then Bretherick exited his own vehicle, and followed Dunning back to his truck, yelling and all the while pointing his gun at him. When the police arrived, they arrested Bretherick, who was eventually charged with felony aggravated assault.
At a pre-trial hearing, Bretherick tried to claim “stand your ground” immunity from prosecution, but was denied by the judge because Dunning had already backed off at the sight of the gun. Like many people, Bretherick did not understand that SYG laws do not eliminate your responsibility to follow ALL of the common law principles of self-defense.
After he was convicted, Bretherick appealed the ruling, arguing that he should not have to prove he acted in self-defense before going to trial. Not surprisingly, the state Supreme Court ruled against him. After all, if Bretherick had simply disengaged and left the scene as soon as Dunning retreated, he might have avoided a whole lot of trouble. But he didn’t, so he paid the price. Here again, even though Bretherick did not initiate the confrontation, he was the one who paid the price.
Be smart, people. Learn the rules, and regardless of what other drives do, avoid conflicts with them. And above all, control your temper. It could save you a lot of grief … or your life.