Road Rage: No Winners

I’m really getting tired of reading about road rage incidents involving lawfully armed citizens. Because if there is one situation that represents an avoidable risk, it’s road rage. In almost every case, it turns out that there were numerous opportunities for either party to end the confrontation, long before things escalated to a use-of-force scenario.

A highly successful poker player friend of mine called road rage a “Sucker’s Bet.” He’s right. Because there’s no upside; at best, you go home. At worst, you get prosecuted, injured or even killed. All risk — no reward. Avoid it at all costs.

This can be difficult due to what risk management professionals call “frequency exposure.” Essentially, while the odds of you or me walking in on something like an armed robbery in progress are extremely low, it’s not unusual to encounter dangerous or hostile drivers on an almost daily basis.

I drive on I-95 to Daytona Beach every week, and I encounter people who are downright insane. Locals call the road “Florida’s Autobahn” for good reason. Occasionally, when I have seen genuinely egregious or truly reckless behavior, I have called 911 and given them the vehicle’s description, direction, etc. But regardless of what other drivers do, I never, EVER, engage with them. You’d be well advised to do the same.

When confrontations with other drivers become violent, things get even more complicated, especially when one — or both — of the participants is armed. Just determining what happened can be difficult, especially when there are wildly divergent testimonies by witnesses, if there are any. But there are also other tangential issues that can bias and/or politicize the investigation and any subsequent charges.

The recent death of former New York Jets football player Joe McKnight during a road rage altercation is a perfect example. Briefly, the 28-year-old McKnight and 54-year-old Ronald Gasser were driving in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, when, according to Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, Gasser claimed that McKnight “cut him off” and Gasser “took off after him.”

Ultimately, they got to a red light in Terrytown, just outside New Orleans. Normand said “McKnight pulled alongside Gasser’s car, and each rolled down his window and began arguing.” At some point, McKnight got out of his car and continued the argument while leaning down to see eye-to-eye with Gasser, who was in the driver’s seat of his vehicle. As the argument continued, “Gasser pulled a gun from between his seat and the car’s center console, and shot McKnight three times,” Normand said.

Gasser was originally released, but upon further investigation, was charged with manslaughter. The relatively high profile of the victim, and the discovery that Gasser had previously been charged with battery in a previous road rage incident, likely contributed to the indictment. In addition, since Gasser was white and McKnight was black, the case ignited the predictable charges of racism by local activist groups.

Honestly, whether Gasser gets convicted or not is beside the point. The bottom line is that if either of these men had simply “let it go” instead allowing his emotions to get the better of him, this tragedy would never have even happened.

And please, no comments about how “justified” you think the shooting was — the courts will determine that. Instead, try to learn from cases like this in order to keep from making the same mistakes others have made.

Be smart. Be safe.

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