HOUSTON — The trouble started with an argument between two drivers merging in slow traffic after an Astros baseball game last summer. It ended with two gunshots, fired from a moving Buick and exploding through the glass of a fleeing Ford pickup truck.
The bullets missed the truck’s driver, Paul Castro, but one — just one — struck his teenage son, David, who sat in the passenger seat. As Mr. Castro drove to get help, a 911 operator told him to apply pressure to the wound at the back of his son’s head. But David did not make it.
The random pointlessness of the killing shocked Houston. But it was one of dozens of similar incidents across the country over the past year amid an explosion of shootings and killings attributed to rage on the road.
These eruptions of sudden violence — a man in Tulsa, Okla., firing repeatedly after an argument at a red light; a Georgia driver shot while on a family road trip — are not unique to any part of America, among a population that is increasingly on edge and carrying guns. But they have been perhaps most pronounced on the roads of Texas.
they were buying millions more weapons.
a woman driving with her dog shot and wounded another motorist in Oklahoma City. In Miami, a man fired 11 shots from his car on Interstate 95 in what he has said was self-defense. A Los Angeles couple is set to stand trial for firing into a car during morning rush hour last year, killing a 6-year-old boy on his way to kindergarten.
Criminologists cautioned that any theory of motivation behind road rage shootings is hampered by a lack of data. Most police departments do not keep statistics on road rage episodes, in part because it is not itself a crime category. There is no federal database.
Arizona has tried to get a rough approximation of the number of road rage incidents, adding a box for “possible road rage” to the form filled out by police officers for car crashes in 2018. The data showed an increase in such incidents in 2021 compared with the previous two years, according to Alberto Gutier, the director of the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
“It’s going crazy,” he said of road rage. “People are so stupid.”