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:
- Ep. 4 Should I Shoot? Probable Cause
- Ep. 5 Should I Shoot? What If the Crook has a Gun Pointed at the Clerk?
- Ep. 6 Should I Shoot? What Gun Should I Get Part II
- Ep. 7 Should I Shoot? The Fleeing Suspect And the Good (But Dead) Samaritan
- Ep. 8 Should I Shoot? The Line In the Sand, How I Would Handle A Mass Killing Situation
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.
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.