Police & Fire

Rising Temperatures Bring Rising Tempers For Road Rage Incidents, Experts Say

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As the temperatures go up during the summer months, seemingly so do motorists' tempers. According to reports, warmer weather has been linked to greater aggression while driving.

According to statistics from AAA, road rage has happened to more than half of all drivers. It says also that 80 percent of drivers report that they have expressed anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel within the last year.

Experts say that the warmer months cause a spike in incidents for a number of factors. People tend to be more cautious during hazardous winter conditions than when roads are clear. Many motorists who are recovering from cabin fever for the past eight months, can't wait to get to their destinations in a hurry. There's also construction that occurs during the summertime, which may cause lane closures and often forces motorists to streamline in tight detour pathways. Experts add that it also boils down to impatient attitudes in getting the most out of the season during the longest days of the year. All of this can amount to a recipe for roadway disaster.

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Last month, Bianca Roberson, 18, of Chester County, Pa., was fatally shot by another motorist David Desper, 28,  during a road rage incident. Authorities say Roberson, a recent high school graduate, was shot in the head in West Goshen while attempting to merge into a single lane on Route 100, at the exact time as Desper. She was killed instantly. Desper turned himself into authorities and was jailed on charges of first and third-degree murder, possession of an instrument of crime and reckless endangerment.

May Lee and her two children, of Little Falls, were nearly killed when they were run off the road by an enraged driver Milton Aganon, 25, of Bloomfield. Aganon was tailgating Lee at an estimated 80 miles an hour on Route 23 in Wayne. He cut her off while he passed her causing her vehicle to flip over a median and land in a ditch, injuring both of her legs. Her children suffered minor injuries. Aganon was arrested and served nine months in prison. The incident took place in late spring.

in 2013, Brian Topoleski, 18, of Cedar Grove teenager was killed when he was stabbed with a steak knife after an alleged road rage incident in Little Falls. Jonathan Lafontaine, 23, of Totowa, pled guilty to aggravated manslaughter and was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the killing of Topoleski. The incident took place during the summer of 2013.

A Woodland Park woman, who asked not to be identified, said she experienced two road rage incidents within a one month period during one recent summer. The first happened at a local fast food establishment, where police were called after she felt threatened by a fellow motorist when he continued to stalk her after a near collision. Police found a slew of violations and other criminal history on that motorist's driving record. The other occurred weeks later on McBride Avenue where she unintentionally cut off another motorist. She said the enraged driver tailgated her for at least five minutes in a threatening manner, shouting obscenities at her out of his car window. He continued to tailgate her for several more minutes before he finally fled when he realized she led him to the local police department parking lot.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAA), there are an estimated 1,500 people a year who are seriously injured or killed in senseless traffic disputes.

"Sixty-six percent of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive drivers and 37 percent of aggressive driving incidents involve a firearm," said Stephen Rajczyk, manager of public and government services, AAA North Jersey, adding that males under 19 are the most likely to exhibit road rage and half of drivers who are on the receiving end of aggressive behavior, such as horn honking, a rude gesture, or tailgating, admit to responding to aggressive behavior themselves.

"Over a seven year period, 218 murders and 12,610 injuries were attributed to road rage," he further added. "Another scary statistic worth noting is that two percent of drivers admit to trying to run an aggressor off the road. These statistics, compiled from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Association and the AutoVantage auto club, show that aggressive drivers and road rage are causing serious problems on our roads."

Rajczyk also pointed out that the volume of motorist traffic increases in general during the summer months, due to schools being out and people taking their long-awaited vacations.

"The odds of confrontation increases during these summer months, given the number of motorists in a rush to get to their destinations," he explained. "I also feel people just don't have the patience that they used to have years ago. I've experienced a little of that over this past weekend myself with the Fourth of July holiday. I saw motorists driving up on the shoulders during traffic snarls and switching lanes very close to one another. I really wished police would have caught them at that moment to issue summonses. They have to realize that they just don't own the roads by themselves and that they share them with other drivers."

He also added that most motorists are not professional drivers and many don't have sufficient skills as professional ones do.

"You're probably better off driving next to a skilled driver like at a speedway race than many who are on the road," he said. 

He also emphasized that sweltering temperatures make for miserable traffic conditions and it sets up for volatile situations.

"It's a bad incident waiting to happen, and so many things can go wrong when the roads get that crowded," he further added. "Especially during the a holiday like this past weekend, when many really can't take being stuck in such a huge amount of vehicles."

Rajczyk said the best advice he can give motorists during the summer is to avoided heavy traffic where situations can easily escalate.

"I tell people to try to leave when there aren't going to be so many other motorists on the roadways, if they can," he noted. "Leaving the day before would be fantastic, even at night, where you'll have a pleasant drive and won't have a battle to get there. I realize not everyone can go the day before the onslaught of holiday or weekend traffic, but just try to give yourself as much time as possible in order to have ample time to avoid nasty bottle-necking."

He also said that keeping cold bottles of water and snacks handy is a good tip for motorists. Providing them for children is also important, including making sure that they have entertainment for those long trips, which can be challenging and add to a motorist's anxieties.

"A DVD player or devices for kids is good to have," he added. "You want to keep them preoccupied. The last thing you want to hear is them complaining, particularly if you fall on traffic, which causes more anxiety."

Lastly, he advised using alternative routes if  particular roadway delays are expected.

"I was traveling to Pennsylvania over the weekend on Route 80 westbound and I feel I would've avoided needless traffic if I took another way to get there. Would it have taken longer to get there? Perhaps, but it would've been a whole lot better than arriving frazzled from having been stuck in traffic for a some time. Avoiding any traffic leaves you in a better frame of mind once you arrive at your destination."

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