On the congested streets of Los Angeles, anger is boiling over into dangerous incidents of road rage, a growing number of which involve guns.
From Jan. 1–June 30 there were 459 reports of road rage in the city, according to publicly available Los Angeles Police Department data. That is a 32.7% increase over the same period last year, and almost 140 more incidents than were tallied in the first half of 2019.
Most drivers may never encounter an incident of road rage, considering how many cars are on the streets. Still, incidents have climbed as the year has progressed. The 90 road rage reports in June is the highest monthly total since the LAPD began making its data available in 2010. The June count surpassed the previous record of 85 set in May.
The four months since March have produced four of the five highest monthly totals ever in the city of Los Angeles.
The current figures represent a stark contrast to life before COVID-19. From 2016 to the start of 2020, there were generally 40 to 60 monthly road rage reports.
Since April 2021, there have been six months with more than 70 reports.
It is difficult to say what is sparking the increase. James Moore, director of the USC Transportation Engineering Program, suggested that the rise may be related to the lingering effects of the pandemic, with more drivers feeling economic and other forms of stress.
Drivers frequently get annoyed with each other on the road, and the flinging of an expletive or the display of a middle finger is not uncommon. Road rage is something else: The LAPD defines it as when a person commits assault with a weapon as a result of something that happened while driving.
Sometimes that weapon is the vehicle itself—a car was the documented weapon 49 times in the first half of 2022—and other times situations escalate to fisticuffs.
However, some drivers are ready to pull out a gun. From Jan. 1–June 30, 136 road rage incidents in the city involved a firearm. That is up 34.7% from the 101 such reports in the same period last year.
A gun was utilized in 55 road rage encounters in the first half of 2019.
One incident in Koreatown on May 10 escalated when the suspect brandished a semi-automatic pistol in his waistband as a means of intimidation. No shots were fired.
As with many crimes, men are more frequently involved in acts of road rage than women. During the first six months of the year, 317 of the 459 reports involved a male suspect.
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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