MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA. – Road rage in South Florida often leads to dangerous high-speed shootings and tragedies. Recently, it seemed that road rage shootings were happening even more frequently. According to Debbie Goodman, a criminologist at St. Thomas University, there is a reason.
“Road rage is the third leading cause of death nationally when we talk about and look at car-related fatalities,” Goodman explained, “it’s real life fast and furious now.”
Video of an incident in June showed how it can happen. A driver, identified as Edward Popper, cuts off another car on I-95 in Miami-Dade County, then slams on the brakes.
The video showed Popper retrieving a gun from his center console. As the other car passed on his right, Popper opened fire, shooting through his own windows while continuing to drive.
“If we look at 2020 so far, the increase is double digits,” Goodman said, “and we’re looking at a 31% increase here in Florida alone.”
In particular, violence on the roads has increased sharply since the start of the pandemic according to Goodman. She pointed to the most recent data available on Bankrate.com that showed Florida led the nation in road rage incidents involving a firearm.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles does not specifically track road rage cases, as it is not one of the selections in a uniform traffic citation. Local 10 has requested data on highway shootings, but that information has not yet been provided.
The department sent figures for “aggressive reckless driving”, which is defined as driving a vehicle that puts people or property at risk. Statewide, those numbers have steadily declined, but South Florida led the state in incidents. Over the past six years, the state recorded 20,935 incidents of aggressive driving in Miami-Dade and 12,722 in Broward.
“It’s insane. small children hurt to anyone. I just don’t understand,” said Susan Buchanan, who lost her son in a highway shooting, “I don’t understand people’s disregard for life.
Buchanan’s son, Nathan Hillmon, 28, was killed Dec. 18 on a stretch of I-95 in Deerfield Beach. Broward Sheriff investigators said Hillmon was in a white Mercedes with others traveling north when someone in another car fired at the vehicle. The shooting killed Hillmon, a father of two young children. What caused the shooting was still under investigation.
“But it was my son who ended up having his life taken, it’s like the second gun tragedy in our family because my niece was one of the victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas,” Buchanan explained.
His niece was 17-year-old Helena Ramsey, one of 17 people killed in the 2018 Stoneman Douglas shooting tragedy. Both losses are even more painful, Buchanan says, because of the blatant disregard for human life.
“You know, he has two children. Who now, you know, they’re fatherless,” she added.
A report by Everytown Research & Policy found that in 2021, the number of people shot and killed or injured in road rage shootings nearly doubled, from 22 to 42 people each month.
“There is a high likelihood and probability that motorists in the state of Florida will have close access to a weapon, either in their console or in their glove compartment,” Goodman warned.
She warned that no matter how frustrating the situation, drivers should avoid eye contact or further provoke an aggressive misbehaving driver.
“The assumption must be that the individual in front of us, behind us, beside us, is potentially armed and dangerous… We should not engage. We must not provoke. Don’t do it again, even make eye contact, it’s not worth it.
While it’s unclear exactly what drove the apparent increase in road rage shootings, Goodman said the pandemic has introduced new stressors into people’s lives and aggravated existing ones.
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