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The Demon Tattler

Road Rage Plagues New Mexico

Miranda Archuleta, Author

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Just about everyone who has ever been in a car either as a driver or a passenger has experienced road rage, whether it be on the receiving or the giving end. Although it has worsened in general, in New Mexico it has come to a head, with people being seriously injured or, in some cases, killed by road rage altercations.

Some sobering national road rage statistics from safemotorist.com state that approximately 66 percent deaths in traffic are caused by aggressive driving and 37 percent of aggressive driving incidents involve a firearm. Over the past several years, 218 deaths and 12,610 injuries were caused by road rage.

A 2016 study from AAA found that nearly 80 percent of drivers express significant anger, aggression, or road rage while driving, and approximately 8 million had been involved in serious incidents of road rage.

Of the 80 percent that admitted to engaging in road rage, 51 percent attested to purposely tailgating, 47 percent said that they yelled at another driver, 45 percent honked to show annoyance or anger, 33 percent made angry gestures, 24 percent attempted to block another driver from changing lanes, 12 percent purposely cut off another vehicle, 4 percent got out of their vehicle to confront another driver, and 3 percent hit another vehicle on purpose.

Even in Santa Fe High’s student parking lot, road rage is not an unfamiliar phenomenon. With the combination of high-volume traffic, inexperienced drivers, the poor driving choices of some and even the large speed tables, which are endlessly ridiculed, just getting out of the parking lot can be a major headache.

Senior Hope Aragon recalls an incident she witnessed in the parking lot as a passenger in her friend’s car. While they were waiting in line to turn so that they could exit the lot, a car parked beside them began to roll backward. Her friend then maneuvered out of the way and watched the other car to make sure it didn’t hit hers. At this point the driver pulled forward, opened their car door, and yelled, “What?” Hope’s friend yelled back, “What?” After a short while, they decided to ignore the other driver and deescalate the situation.

But the prevalence of road rage in New Mexico as a whole is much worse. According to the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico drivers are ranked second worst in the nation. New Mexico is ranked fifth for “most careless driving cases” and tenth for most drunken driver arrests. In addition, the state is ranked 17th for traffic fatalities, 12th for speeding, and 16th for other types of citations. Overall, this record of careless and dangerous driving contributes to a concerning level of road rage incidents.

On March 1, a 63-year-old man was rushed to the hospital following a collision between a car and a bicycle southeast of Santa Fe. According to the Albuquerque Journal, the bicyclist, a rider with the Santa Fe Seniors on Bikes group, and the motorist, a 39-year-old man from Moriarty, had opposing reports of the event. The bicyclist claimed that he was heading south on NM 41 when the driver sped past the group, honking his horn. Once the car had passed, it stopped in the middle of the road and began to reverse. The bicyclist said he was unable to avoid hitting the back of the car.

The driver claims that he had come upon a group of bicyclists who were riding in the middle of the road and refused to let him pass. When he finally did pass them, the bikers began yelling at him, and several flipped him off. At that point he lost his temper, abruptly stopped, and went into reverse, stopping just short of the riders, though he said he felt the impact of a bicyclist hitting his car. He claimed that several bicyclists fell and some began to yell profanities. Then he claimed that one of the bicyclists opened his driver side door and seemed to want to fight. The driver fled the scene to avoid a physical confrontation.

Though each of the reports places the blame on the other party, the entire event could have been avoided if those involved had approached the situation with level heads.

SFHS junior Sarah Luiz has seen the effects that road rage can have on people when they behave aggressively and don’t take actions to deescalate situations. When driving on Rodeo Road, she once witnessed the drivers of a truck and a car engaging in an altercation while driving. Shortly after they began to yell at each other, they proceeded to park in the middle of the intersection and get out of their cars. This is when their verbal altercation turned physical, and they began to fight.

“I was terrified,” Sarah stated. “When I saw them get out of their vehicles, I thought they were going to talk it out and get to a positive and safe resolution.” Instead, they fought and held up traffic.

A March 7 incident involving William K. Hunt, a 65-year-old clinical psychologist, further displays just how dangerous road rage can be. According to Santa Fe police, after crashing into a vehicle, Hunt got out of his car and pointed a gun at the other driver, who was attempting to call 911. Hunt held the driver at gunpoint until police arrived and forced him to drop his weapon.

Some people involved in dangerous road rage incidents do not end up as lucky as that driver who walked away from the incident unharmed. Sometimes even blameless passengers pay the price of escalated road rage incidents.

Efrain Arzate Jr., 16, was shot in a road rage incident in Albuquerque’s South Valley on March 20. He was rushed to the hospital in critical condition and was put on life support. He died six days later.

Efrain isn’t the only child to be fatally injured as a passenger in a road rage incident. In 2015, 4-year-old Illiana Rose Garcia lost her life in Albuquerque. Her father, Alan Garcia, had just picked up her and her brother Issac, 7, from school and was attempting to exit the highway when a car crossed two lanes of traffic and blocked him. Garcia responded by gesturing and yelling profanities at the driver, Tony Torrez. Torrez responded by pulling beside Garcia and shouting. Garcia tried to speed up and get away, but Torrez was close enough to fire three shots at the truck, one of which killed Illiana.

Though not all instances of road rage end in such drastic ways, there is always a chance that something as small as flipping off another driver can result in serious injury. The problem is that it can be difficult to remain calm in road rage incidents, though the goal should be to avoid them altogether.

One way to avoid them is to be aware of the conditions that cause road rage. According to the National Highway traffic Safety Administration, these include traffic delays, anonymity, disregard for the law, habitual behavior, disregard for others, and running late. Each can lead to speeding, weaving through traffic, running stop signs or red lights, failure to yield right of way, and tailgating.

According to the insurance company Geico, there are several ways to prevent road rage incidents: Move over when being tailgated, use an “I’m sorry” gesture such as a wave to diffuse a situation, plan ahead for possible obstacles you may face on the way to your destination, consider what you might have done to aggravate another driver and adjust your driving to prevent this action from reoccurring, listen to music that you enjoy, use your horn sparingly, and avoid eye contact or close proximity to an angry driver.

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, two methods are effective in diffusing road rage. First, show remorse for your actions, or whatever the other driver believes you did, that ignited the situation. Remorse can be expressed via a wave, the mouthing of the word “sorry” or allowing the other driver ample room to pass. The second method is to simply be the bigger person and remove yourself from the situation or refuse to reciprocate aggressive behavior. This can be done in many ways, such as pulling over to a safe location away from traffic, taking deep breaths or counting backwards, keeping in mind that you have full control over your actions, and thinking about the consequences that may ensue if you were to get “revenge” on the other driver.

In the end it is better to back down and be safe than to reciprocate aggressive and potentially dangerous behavior, as something as minor as cutting someone off in traffic can turn deadly.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Road Rage Plagues New Mexico”

  1. Veronica Rael Garcia on May 17th, 2018 12:45 pm

    Good afternoon,

    I came across this article while researching information about road rage. I am the mother of Iliana “lilly” Garcia. Thank you so much for doing this, I hope this can bring awareness to young drivers and show them that road rage is completely unnecessary. My wish is that no other family have to go through this nightmare ever again.

    Thanks again!

    Veronica Rael-Garcia

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Road Rage Plagues New Mexico