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Road rage incidents increase as patience decreases

There is an old saying - “patience is a virtue.” It’s especially true when it comes to driving a motor vehicle.

Confession time: When I was a younger driver, I was frequently impatient, especially if I needed to get from point A to point B in a hurry. I would give the “Frassinelli stare” and mumble unmentionables to poky drivers as I zoomed past them. I am not proud of my behavior, but I did grow out of it without any major incidents. As I reflect, I was lucky. A 4,000-pound vehicle in the hands of an angry driver can be lethal. So can his or her mental attitude fueled by hostility.

Now that I am one of the aforementioned pokier drivers, I have become the victim of some dangerous maneuvering by younger, really impatient and sometimes menacing motorists.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines road rage as when a driver “commits moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property; an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle on the operator or passengers of another motor vehicle.”

We have all been alarmed with the growing number of road rage incidents that have been killing and injuring Pennsylvanians and others across the nation.

The most recent occurred just last week on Route 61 in West Brunswick Township, Schuylkill County. George Marcincin, 38, of Orwigsburg was stabbed to death. Tamiir Ion Whitted, 29, of Pottsville, is in Schuylkill County Prison without bail after being charged with first-degree murder, among other charges.

Police are still pulling together the pieces of their investigation, but one thing is clear: This was initiated by a road rage incident that resulted in both drivers leaving their vehicles and confronting one another, police and witnesses said.

More than 65% of deadly crashes in the country can be attributed to aggressive driving. Violent driving incidents have been increasing about 7% a year since 1990, according to NHTSA figures.

Here are some other hair-raising statistics:

• 37% of aggressive driving incidents involve a firearm.

• Males under the age of 19 are the most likely to exhibit road rage.

• Half of drivers who are on the receiving end of an aggressive behavior respond with aggressive behavior themselves.

• Over a seven-year period, 218 killings and 12,610 injuries have been attributed to road rage.

These are some of the signs from drivers who might exhibit road rage: Speeding and weaving in and out of traffic, ignoring traffic signs and signals, using the horn excessively or flashing headlights, tailgating, gesturing to other drivers.

Going back a few years, I would always dread driving with my brother-in-law, who was the personification of impatience. He would shout incessantly at other drivers, calling them all sorts of names and assailing their alleged lack of driving competence.

They couldn’t hear him because the windows were up and the drivers were in their own cars, but some could see his menacing facial gestures and waving hands in their rearview mirrors. On several occasions, these motorists slowed down, and even pulled to the side of the road, ready to confront my brother-in-law if he stopped. At my urging, he never did.

There have been other recent examples of deadly road rage encounters. One that received nationwide attention occurred last month when Julie Eberly, 47, of Manheim, Lancaster County, was shot and killed in North Carolina by an angry motorist, according to Sheriff Burnis Wilkins.

The sheriff said that Eberly was a passenger in a car driven by her husband, Ryan, and they were on their way to their wedding anniversary celebration in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

A few days later, Dejywan Floyd, 29, of Lumberton, North Carolina, was arrested and charged with homicide and a number of other charges. The sheriff said Ryan Eberly did not see Floyd’s car as they came to a merge area on I-95 South because of a blind spot. Moments later, Floyd pulled alongside the Eberlys’ car on the passenger side and began firing shots through the door. One of them struck Julie Eberly, mother of six children, who died after being taken to a hospital.

Ryan Eberly said he is still puzzled. “This was not minutes of escalation, I didn’t give him the finger or beep my horn at him or anything to heighten the situation at all,” Eberly said.

Police recommend that when you see an aggressive motorist who is putting others at risk, you should avoid the driver, don’t make eye contact or give an indication of disapproval. Contact 911 and give a description of the vehicle, a license number if possible, the location and direction of travel and the behavior being displayed.

As to whether you are an aggressive driver: Do you speed excessively? Do you tailgate slower vehicles? Do you race to beat red lights or run stop signs? Do you weave in and out of traffic? Do you pass illegally on the right? Do you fail to yield the right of way to oncoming vehicles?

If you answered “yes” to any of these, not only are you a danger to others, but you are a potential danger to yourself.

By Bruce Frassinelli | tneditor@tnonline.com

The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.