A former Ohio State football player, Will Smith, was killed in an apparent “road rage” incident last night in New Orleans. Shortly before midnight Smith’s car was rear-ended by another vehicle, and the driver of the vehicle shot Smith multiple times and shot Smith’s wife as well. Smith was pronounced dead at the scene, and the driver of the other car was charged with second-degree murder.
It’s one of those senseless deaths that make you shake your head. Of course, I heard about it only because the victim was a great defensive line star at OSU and one of the players that helped the Buckeyes win the 2003 National Championship. But lots of people who aren’t pro athletes are victimized by “road rage.” Statistics are hard to come by, but one recent report indicated that 1,500 people each year are hurt or killed in road rage incidents — and the number appears to be increasing. If you’ve been out on the roads lately, you probably won’t find that difficult to believe.
Reports indicate that road rage incidents often start with something small, like a bad driving maneuver, or tailgating, or giving someone the finger, but they for some reason escalate to the point where cars are chasing each other at high rates of speed through rush-hour traffic, trying to run each other off the road, or following each other until one car stops and a physical confrontation occurs. Who knows what set off the shooter in the Will Smith incident — but a simple rear-ending fender bender wouldn’t cause a rational, sober person to start spraying bullets.
It’s frightening to think that there are people so filled with anger just below the surface that one traffic incident or rude gesture could cause them to become so unhinged that they are willing to murder a complete stranger. When you add loaded firearms to the mix, it becomes an even more terrifying scenario.
The lesson is clear — if you see someone driving aggressively, get out of the way. Avoid eye contact or any form of provocation. The old ’60s-era driving slogan has an even more pointed meaning these days: Watch out for the other guy.