Ep. 9 Should I Shoot? Road Rage


Avoid road rage. Remember, the best fight is the one you aren’t in.

Editor’s Note: The following is a post from Sammy Reese, a former Marine Corps Artillery Officer and retired police officer from California. He is a part-time range master for the police department he retired from as well as a life-long martial artist and combatives coach.

Check out the last five episodes in this series:

One of my old partners had a saying: “The fastest way to turn a human being into a complete idiot is to put him behind the wheel of a car.” We’ve all seen people do things while driving that caused us to shake our heads and wonder if the driver did, in fact, have a fully functioning brain. (If you haven’t, please tell me where you live; I want to move there.)

The phenomenon we call “road rage” has been around for longer than I’ve been alive. I can remember driving with my dad — not in a car seat, and probably not even with a seatbelt — listening to him yelling obscenities (and giving what I would later learn was not a finger you should walk around showing) at some driver who must have broken one of his rules of the road. What can I say? Pop had a temper and wasn’t afraid of expressing his displeasure with other drivers.

At some point, these car-to-car arguments cross the line and become physical confrontations where normally calm individuals beat the crap out of each other — or worse — for what one party considers improper use of a motor vehicle. All you have to do is watch the evening news and you’ll come across a story where someone ends up dead as the result of road rage and the other guy gets to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Road rage comes in many different forms. The yelling and finger gestures are like football players fighting: They have all the gear on and nothing happens except a ref throws a flag if they don’t calm down. What concerns me is when hand gestures become a physical attack. I’ve been the victim of road rage a few times, and the worst incident became something more.

An angry driver shakes his fist out the window of his vehicle.

An angry driver shakes his fist out the window of his vehicle.

When my daughter, Hannah, was about 4 years old, we were in my wife’s SUV driving down a two-lane road. I was in the passenger seat. Hannah was in the back middle all secure in the best kid seat money can buy. The vehicle in front of us was going slowly; I assumed the driver was looking for a parking space in front of some nearby condos. He made about three or four stops and on the last one, my wife pulled out to pass him. When she did, he started to move forward again, so she honked the horn to let him know we were passing. We continued for a few blocks and stopped at a red light.

I saw a vehicle in the side-view mirror approaching and it was closing fast. The car swerved into the oncoming lane and came at our SUV from the driver’s side, stopping inches from the driver’s door. I had no time to exit the vehicle, so I drew my concealed weapon and dove across my wife’s lap, presented my pistol out the window and yelled at the man as he exited his vehicle, “Stop or I will shoot!”

I’ll never forget the look on his face when he looked down the barrel of my .45-caliber pistol. He froze in place and put his hands up. I told my wife to get going as I held the man at gunpoint. After some evasive driving through the neighborhood, we stopped and called the local sheriff to report what had just happened. Time from start to finish was measured in seconds, not minutes, for me to make an assessment and then act on it.

What would you have done? Have you done a “what if?” for this type of event in your head? I hope you do now and figure out some response to this and any other road rage-type incident.

To this day, I have no idea what set that driver off. He was never found, and he certainly didn’t dial 911 to report that someone had just pointed a gun at him. I can say I’m thankful I was carrying concealed that day and didn’t take the day off.

I’m not sure why tempers flare so drastically over perceived indiscretions on the road. When we accidently bump into someone on the sidewalk, we say something like, “Sorry. Pardon me,” and we go about our business. This doesn’t seem to be the case in traffic.

What I can say is de-escalation is the best option (or, more simply, the best fight is the one you aren’t in). If you’ve angered another driver, a simple “excuse me” wave might calm things down. If the wave doesn’t work and he or she won’t let it go, you can slow down and let the driver pull away. Exit and create space.

What if you can’t get away? Call 911. Tell the operator what is happening. Remain calm and do the best you can to create space.

If you are followed and attacked, what’s your plan? There’s a lot to think about, so take some time now to consider what you will do when a simple trip to get groceries or pick up your kids from school turns into a rolling nightmare.

For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.

About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

{ 22 comments… add one }
  • Dave May 9, 2017, 3:06 pm

    It is incredibly hard to communicate with other drivers. To me, flashing high-beams or a horn honk ‘say’ only one thing: “HEY!” I can’t guess what someone is trying to ‘say’ when they blow their horn, so reciprocally, I don’t use my horn unless I want to shout “HEY!”

    My dad sometimes flashes his high-beams at tractor-trailers who, having passed him on the interstate, are signaling that they wish to return to the right lane. I guess he’s trying to say, ‘The right lane is clear ahead of me for you to enter’, but that flashing light could be mis-interpreted as ‘I’m here, don’t hit me!’

    I wish I knew the hand gesture for ‘excuse me, my bad, sorry for cutting you off’ or whatever it was. We have obvious hand gestures for more aggressive statements, but nothing for ‘I’m sorry’…

    My dad was a defensive-driving instructor way back in the day, and the one thing that sunk in to me was ‘Be predictable’. (Mostly) Everyone else on the road is trying to avoid crashing into you, so make their job as easy as you can.

  • Jim Isbell July 1, 2016, 4:01 pm

    I found that getting my Concealed Carry license made me a better driver. I used to get angry with A$$ holes but then after I got my CHL I realized that I had a greater responsibility and that even pointing my finger at someone could lead to his claiming that I pulled a gun on him and if I was pulled over and had a gun, even a legal one, even one that I never pulled, the officer would have a reason to believe the A$$ hole that claimed I pulled in on him. So now I am a classic wimp on the road.

    Now, in Texas there is no need for a license to carry IN YOUR CAR. So that means the A$$ hole may have one. My driving is impeccable now.

    Maybe that explains why, when two men met on the sidewalk in the old west and both were carrying they tipped their hats to each other. Open carry makes for politeness.

    • Mongo July 2, 2016, 2:59 pm

      Very true how your attitude changes with a gun on your hip, especially in a car. There is no harm to your manhood by giving the other doofus-behind-the-wheel the impression that you are an apologetic wuss who can’t drive by their rules. Nothing like a smile, a wave and “after you” gesture as he is cussing and flipping you off. If you don’t let yourself act like they do, they will most likely act like you want them to, which is to leave you be and not escalate.

      I made a mistake once of putting my pistol in my lap, as a way of letting them know I was armed, leave me be, but that just incensed this guy, and he about broke my window. Had to stomp the accelerator and get gone fast, but also called 911. Turns out, he did too, but I got through first. After taking my complaint and seeing the damage to my truck, he got the summons, not me. Cop told me I was the lucky one, if his call came through first, I would’ve been in cuffs. Be first to call 911, always…..

  • Jay Hammond July 1, 2016, 11:14 am

    Really? You couldn’t have just hit the brake and avoided the situation? If someone threatens to beat your a$$ will you pull your gun on them too? How about if someone just makes you really mad? Your reaction was WAY over the top.
    Any attorney anywhere would have asked that same question.
    Attorney(or prosecutor): Why did you point your loaded-deadly-automatic-scary weapon at the driver?
    You: Because my life/family’s life was in danger.
    Attorney: You couldn’t have just hit the brake? Maybe turned or avoided the situation?
    Sorry, escalating to deadly force in that short of time tells me you are somewhat of a hot-head, and maybe shouldn’t carry a firearm at all. Don’t get me wrong, if my family’s life is in danger, I will use deadly force – that’s the only reason I carry. Not to get a “one-up” on someone making threats.
    Now, had the guy been driving straight at you and/or you were in IMMINENT danger, that’s a different story.
    My dad told me about 30 years ago – “If you pull it out, you better intend to use it.”.
    (and it’s beyond me why anyone would write an article admitting/demonstrating that one’s mental state is to pull a firearm in this type of situation)

    • david July 1, 2016, 12:02 pm

      good thinking. good advice.

    • Chris July 2, 2016, 1:54 am

      A vehicle IS a deadly weapon, using it in a threatening manor justifies his action completely. Secondly HE WAS STOPPED! He clearly said “we drove for a few blocks and stopped at a red light”. His action was the correct one as no one was injured over “feelings” and everyone walked away. I have seen many many times where that wasnt the case and neither person was armed but one or both went to the hospital and not home.

  • Stephen July 1, 2016, 10:07 am

    No way I would have pointed my weapon at this subject. At that time he presented no eminent threat of death or great bodily harm. Shoot and you get life in prison.

    • Chris July 2, 2016, 1:55 am

      A vehicle is a deadly weapon, they were stopped and this dude used his vehicle for intimidation. He was absolutely justified.

  • Louis C July 1, 2016, 8:22 am

    Really? Pulling a gun on someone that friggin fast? Escalate from a 1 to a 5 is dumb as a box of rocks. Yes. I carry pretty much at all waking hours, including at home. No anti here.

    • Chris July 2, 2016, 1:58 am

      He de-escalated the situation just as fast as it started. You cant threaten someone with a deadly weapon like a vehicle, anymore than you can pull a gun on someone just walking down the street.

  • Tj2000 July 1, 2016, 7:08 am

    You can say all the things you want about being prepared but until that moment comes you cant say anything. I had that moment and I had thought those types of things on what would I do until it happened to me. Some idiot was driving up my tail pipe on a large expressway just north of Atlanta. I was doing the 70 mph speed limit in the left lane going south bound. Here he comes and he cant pass because of traffic to the left of us so he expects me to pull off in the emergency lane so I gesture with my middle finger NO.
    So he pulls up on the emergency lane to my right and proceeds to act like he is going to take out my jeep with his car. I slow down and pull over and he does to. This guy gets out and he is a monster size, like 6’5 280 solid muscle. I notice he has a Georgia Bulldogs football training jersey on and he is hot. He gets out of his car and starts towards my jeep and I get out with my 45 drawn down on him and I yell for him to stop. Note there is a disparity of force law in Ga. He stops and proceeds to pee in his pants. He gets back in his car and takes off. I call 911 and give them a description and the GHP call me to let me know he has been pulled over 2 miles ahead and asked me to identify him. I did. so the point here is if you have to pull your weapon to deescalate a situation then immediately be the first one to call 911. It can be a matter of you going to jail or not.
    Thank God I moved to a small town in Florida 10 years ago. No traffic. Be safe

    • Kratos July 1, 2016, 9:45 am

      @Tj2000. Good advise/tip. I’ve pulled my Glock at someone before but never occurred to call and notify the police.

    • Stephen July 1, 2016, 10:12 am

      The question is what if he did not stop and kept moving toward you, saying go ahead and shoot. Do you shoot and unarmed man because of his size? Best case don’t stop, keep driving and dial 911.

  • Darryl July 1, 2016, 3:58 am

    one more thing, this is why you see so many video’s from Russia. so many crooks cut in front of people there and hit their breaks cause a crash to collect off others Ins. so the russian’s have put the camera’s in their cars as proof of what happens and to keep their ins from going up or being canceled.

  • Darryl July 1, 2016, 3:55 am

    this stuff happens more then we need to put up with. i was making a left turn from a red light, after it turned green of course. the guy to the inside of me, it was a 2 lane and he had to turn left. i had the choice of left turn or going straight. not sure if he thought i was going straight but i made the left turn going wide to give him room. but he decided to cut me off and go into the lane i was suppose to go in. i hooked to let him know i was there , he about creamed my left front fender. guess he didn’t like the horn and locked up his brakes in front of me about making me run into him. i pulled over at the get and go store i was headed to half thinking he would pull in too. no kept going on. i was on my way to work and didn’t have time to take it up with him down the road. another time on the way toward and this flies by me in the fast lane of the interstate cut s me off and you guessed it hits his breaks making me hit mine to keep from plowing into him. there was 2 ways to make exit so as i went by i honked at him and he flips me off like i did something wrong. #3, sitting at red light getting ready to make right turn to get on highway, person other side of intersection was going to be making a left turn to get on the same on ramp to highway. well the light turned green before i had a chance to do the right on red thing so i went on with my right hand turn, i have right of way. well this nut thought he was to go before me and because i didn’t stop to let them go they ride my bumper and then honk at me all the way down the on ramp to highway. just a few of the many nut jobs i’ve had to deal with in the road and this just the ones in my truck don’t even get me started on the ones when i was riding my motorcycle.

  • Will Drider June 27, 2016, 11:17 pm

    Don’t antagonize or escalate. Change your route and avoid dead ends, secluded areas, stopped or backed up traffic. Slow down well before congestion but keep rolling. Keep targeting open paths. Beware od soft ground off road shoulder. If you change route twice and your still being followed with demonstrated hostility, its time to call 911. Gather/give discreptions. Never roll down windows, make sure their up and doors are locked. If your doors auto unlock when put in park: I recommend you have your Dealer program OFF that feature. Never get out unless the car is on fire, or getting pushed off a cliff or into water. Don’t let provication or malicious damage to your vehicle draw you out (even if you have a gun). Don’t say “I have a gun”. Bg may go get one of his own! You may access it but keep it out of stght for now. If there is hostility and an attempt the enter thereby getting to you: that may fill the bill in your State for a show of force. If the BG penetrates the barrier of your vehicle he has either used a weapon or demonstrated extreme physical force with intent to direct the weapon, physical force and targeted hostility at you. This is the point I would use deadly force. Body work and parts are going to be much cheaper then long term lawyer bills. If you do introduce a firearm into this situation even at this point, you will want to retain a lawyer and not answer questions or make a statement. Just tell LE you will fully cooperate when your Lawyer is present (after consultation). Don’t talk to spectators, Press, cell mates, medics or family: NOBODY. Do get licence plate numbers from occupied nearby vehicles as witnesses drive off.
    Keep an old cell phone charged for video use so you can use your active phone seperatly. All this information is not legal advise just my Plan A when in a vehicle. There is more vunerability to consider if you are on a motorcycle!

    • Archangel July 1, 2016, 2:22 pm

      Quote Keep an old cell phone charged for video use so you can use your active phone separately.

      Yep, my phone will not take video while making a call.

    • Skippy July 1, 2016, 5:03 pm

      I could not have said it better myself! You need to avoid the escalation and not stop because your feelings are hurt because someone calls you a name, fingers you, cut’s you off. Avoid the conflict and unless you are in a dead end level 5 situation, you should avoid putting the public, your family, or yourself in any further danger. If possible just call 911 at the start of the threat so there is a recorded record which will hopefully provide details to show you’re not the problem..

  • Ulysses Rutherford Sampsonite June 27, 2016, 3:44 pm

    modern cell phones with cameras are a better deterrent – as the maniac departs the vehicle try to get pic of license plate and “Hercules” all at once and threaten to send it to johny law. i have used this numerous times on my bike and all but one walked away rapidly – that’s when the an X frame 460 comes in handy – bigger is better.

  • SuperG June 27, 2016, 2:04 pm

    Psychologists have determined that we have this aura of invincibility when we are in our cars. Which could explain why some people just act rudely, as they don’t care. But moreover, and at the very least, a lot of people have anger management problems. We need to learn to “let it go”. It is hard at times, especially when you brake check in the fast lane and you can see someone talking on the phone in the car in front of you, but LEARN to do it. In any fight there is a chance you may lose, so why risk it?

    • Phantom July 1, 2016, 9:07 am

      I think part of what contributes to this problem right now is the fact that we live in a very low consequence environment. forget to go shopping? Oh well the McDonald’s is always open. Loose your job? Welfare. Wreck your car, insurance will likely pay for a new one. The lack of consequences has lead to people not considering them as much as past generations.

      • John July 2, 2016, 12:30 am

        Man, I agree with this one, and especially the de-escalation tactics from the others. But the low consequence thing just gets me. I mean if you can take shots at the President of the U.S. 30 years ago and you’re still alive (Hinckley) or gun down John Lennon, be caught practically red handed and still be alive, then the consequences are not nearly great enough. This is one big reason why we have gun violence. Nothing much is going to happen if you’re caught except you get to visit your buddies in the big house.

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