Traffic sucks in Houston. We all know this; we live this while stuck in every rush-hour gridlock on 610, trying to stay cool even as it becomes clear that we're going to be late again. Despite our best intentions—and all of those deep healing breaths on I-45—the Bayou City’s earned the reputation as America’s road rage capital. And it’s getting worse.
Although there have been substantially fewer commuters on the road throughout the pandemic, there’s been a 30-percent jump in road rage incidents, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said during a December 8 press conference. “We have seen a marked increase this year in terms of road rage incidents and aggravated assaults resulting from road rage incidents,” Acevedo said.
In fact, there have been more than 200 road rage incidents on Houston roadways through October, six of which have ended in fatalities, including HPD Sergeant Sean Rios, who was shot while trying to defuse a road confrontation on November 9.
There’s no doubt that the stress of 2020 has frayed some nerves, but city and county officials note that even the 2020 of it all does not merit violent or aggressive behavior, especially after minor traffic accidents.
“This year has been very difficult,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzales said. “There’s been a lot of loss both in our community and our nation, and we shouldn’t be compounding our suffering with unnecessary carnage on our roadways.”
To help combat the increasing violence, HPD, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the Harris County District Attorney's Office, and the Texas Department of Public Safety have created a joint task force to monitor roadways. On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott directed DPS to send support to help.
"The State of Texas is working closely with HPD to provide the necessary resources that will effectively combat violence in the Houston community," Abbott said in a statement. "The support that DPS is providing to HPD will protect Houstonians and crack down on illegal and violent activity, including road rage-related shootings, within the city."
The task force will be out on Houston roadways in marked and unmarked cars, identifying erratic and dangerous drivers and responding to road rage incidents. They might even forfeit cars, said Acevedo, according to a Chron.com report.
Basically, next time you’re wanting to flip someone the bird on 45, think about how willing you are to walk home.
10 tips to avoid confrontation on the road
Use your signals.
This is Driver’s Ed 101, but always make sure to signal ahead of time when you merge, turn, or change lanes so motorists around you are aware. Also, check your blind spots!
Always be two seconds behind the driver behind you. Bonus, this will help protect you from accidentally rear-ending someone.
Make time for traffic.
Leave with plenty of time to get to your destination so you won’t stress about being late while on the road.
Report erratic drivers.
If you see someone crazy on the road, report it so they can’t harm themselves or someone else.
If someone is driving aggressively behind you, move over a lane and let them pass. Don’t speed up to match them, just let the situation defuse.
Try not to take it personally.
Roads are shared space, and we’re all going through tough times. If someone’s being confrontational, take a deep breath and move out of the way. They’d probably yell at anyone right now, so don't take it personally and remember that, again, this is 2020—we're all going through something.
Don’t use obscene gestures.
Come on, y’all. That’s basic manners.
Keep your windows rolled up.
If an aggressive driver gets out of their car and approaches yours, do not roll down your windows to talk to them. Unless you've had an accident, it's best not to engage and just to keep driving.
Don’t drive home if someone is following you.
Head to the closest police station or a crowded area if you notice someone following you. Call for help if you need it.
Avoid eye contact.
If you’re around someone in the middle of road rage, don’t look them in the eye. You want to “try to keep the encounter as impersonal as possible,” according to Allstate.