Last year was one of the deadliest years on record for the United States. In 2020, gun homicides and non-suicide-related shootings took approximately 19,300 lives—a 25 percent increase from 2019. Reports of road rage shootings have increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, too. With easy access to guns, road rage can turn deadly.
Experiencing aggressive driving on the road is not uncommon—roughly eight in 10 drivers surveyed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported experiencing at least one incident in the month before the survey. But the presence of a gun can turn such an encounter from a few unpleasant minutes into a dangerous incident for the drivers involved, their passengers, and pedestrians.
Using Gun Violence Archive’s database to analyze road rage incidents involving a gun, Everytown Research & Policy determined that the number of road rage injuries and deaths have increased yearly since 2018. If current trends continue, 2021 is on track to be the deadliest year on record, with a projected 500 people injured or killed in road rage shootings.
Over the last year, an average of 42 people per month have been shot and killed or wounded in road rage shootings.
Road Rage Deaths and Injuries, 2017 to 2021
So far in 2021, a person has been shot and either injured or killed in a road rage incident, every 18 hours on average. Over the past 12 months, the average number of people shot and killed or wounded in road rage shootings has nearly doubled. In the past four years, the monthly average was 22 deaths and injuries. So far this year, the monthly average has jumped to 42 deaths and injuries.
From 2016 to 2019, roughly one-third of road rage incidents involving a gun resulted in injury or death. Between 2020 and 2021, half of these incidents did.
|Year||Road Rage Incident With a Gun||% of Incidents Resulting in Injury or Death|
|2021 (Through May)||353||51%|
|2021 (Estimated)||More than 800|
COVID-19 introduced new stressors into people’s lives.
We don’t definitively know what is driving this apparent increase in road rage shootings, but the pandemic has brought all kinds of new stressors into people’s lives and exacerbated underlying ones. During the pandemic, we also saw record increases in gun sales and a national increase in shootings. This data strongly suggests that these changes have played out on streets and highways, too.
Lack of access to job opportunities, decent housing, and other critical basic needs are key drivers of gun violence. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread economic upheaval while also disrupting the delivery of social services that help alleviate the impact of such stressors. Many local gun violence intervention programs also experienced unprecedented challenges in their work, including strained funding, having to accommodate social distancing measures, and an expansion of their mission to include preventing the spread of the virus.
There’s still more research to be done on road rage shooting incidents, but one thing is clear: These trends don’t seem to be slowing. That’s why action from policymakers to prevent gun violence is more urgent now than ever.
Director of Research, Everytown for Gun Safety
Principal Research Scientist, Everytown for Gun Safety