Most Angelenos will tell you that traffic today is generally not as bad as it was before the pandemic. Yet another aspect of driving is far worse: road rage.
According to publicly accessible Los Angeles Police Department data, there have been more road rage incidents in the first nine months of 2021 than during the same timeframe of any year in the past decade. From Jan. 1-Sept. 30, the LAPD has recorded 535 incidents. That is a 33.4% increase from the 401 in the same period in 2020.
People behind the wheel have been particularly angry since the spring. The 80 road-rage incidents in May was the highest monthly figure since at least 2010. September brought another 70 reports.
Road rage incidents in Los Angeles by month, Jan. 2015-Sept. 2021
In fact, there have been 65 or more road rage incidents four times in the last five months. Only two other times since 2010 has that level been reached in a single month.
What exactly is road rage? It doesn’t mean just tailing another car while speeding through traffic. Rather, the LAPD defines the criminal offense as a driver’s “willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others” while on the road. Nearly half of all road rage incidents reported this year were also logged by police as aggravated assaults.
Road rage incidents in Los Angeles by year, 2012-2021
Not only are there more incidents, but they increasingly bring the potential for greater danger. In 2021 alone, 105 people involved in road rage encounters brandished a handgun either in their own vehicle or while approaching another. In the entirety of 2020, only 62 incidents involved a firearm. The figure in 2019 was 61.
The incidents include one on Sept. 11 of this year on the I-210 Freeway in Lake View Terrace. It is unclear what provoked the encounter, but two teenagers were shot at while in a car.
Road rage incidents involving a firearm, 2018-2021
The teens were not harmed, but other road rage encounters this year have turned deadly. Last month a 22-year-old man was killed in Downtown after a minor accident sparked a heated confrontation.
Downtown is the site of the highest number of road rage incidents in the first nine months of the year, with 33 occurring on its busy streets. The second-greatest number of incidents has been the 21 in Van Nuys.
Road rage is not exclusive to cars, as bus drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians can all fall victim to drivers flying off the handle. On Feb. 24, a cyclist on Fifth Street in Downtown was followed by a man in a car. The driver then exited his vehicle and knocked the rider to the ground.
This year, 11 people on bicycles have been victims of road rage in Los Angeles.
In the effort to reduce road rage violence, the Los Angeles Police Department has a number of suggestions, many spinning off the idea of trying not to offend other drivers. Tips include not cutting off other vehicles, avoiding improper use of high beams, and avoiding eye contact if another driver appears angry.
How we did it: We examined crime data from the Los Angeles Police Department from Jan. 1, 2012-Sept. 30, 2021. For neighborhood boundaries, we rely on the borders defined by the Los Angeles Times. Learn more about our data here.
LAPD data only reflects crimes that are reported to the department, not how many crimes actually occurred. In making our calculations, we rely on the data the LAPD makes publicly available. LAPD may update past crime reports with new information, or recategorize past reports. Those revised reports do not always automatically become part of the public database.
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