(WFRV) – Nowadays, drivers have to worry about much more than getting ‘the finger’ while on the road, a new study revealed road rage shootings are up across the country with Wisconsin being one of the top states experiencing these illegal outbursts.

A study, conducted by Everytown for Gun Safety, a national non-profit organization that advocates for gun control, showed that in 2021, a person was shot and either wounded or killed in a road rage incident every 17 hours across the nation.

Furthermore, the findings, derived from the Gun Violence Archive, highlight that these incidents have steadily increased since 2016, and have now reached unprecedented levels.

According to the study, between 2016 and 2019, there were an average of 22 people killed or wounded in road rage shooting incidents each month. In 2020, this jumped to 34 only to rise again a year later with 44 deaths in 2021, which is the highest number reported in the last six years.

A full breakdown through the years of road rage-related incidents involving a gun is available below.

YearRoad Rage Incidents With a Gun% of Incidents Resulting in Injury or Death
Data provided by Everytown Research & Policy

But what is road rage? How does it go from a roadway misunderstanding to a possible homicide?

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, road rage can be a direct result of ‘aggressive driving,’ which is when a driver performs unsafe behavior, with a deliberate intention or disregard for safety.

Examples of aggressive driving behaviors include:  

  • Speeding in heavy traffic
  • Tailgating
  • Cutting in front of another driver and then slowing down
  • Running red lights
  • Weaving in and out of traffic
  • Changing lanes without signaling
  • Blocking cars attempting to pass or change lanes

These unsafe driving behaviors can then lead a person to experience road rage, which is when aggressive driving escalates. Examples of road rage are as follow:

  • Cursing and rude or obscene gestures
  • Throwing objects
  • Ramming
  • Sideswiping
  • Forcing a driver off the road

However, now, drivers across the country, specifically in Wisconsin, can add ‘shootings’ to that list.

The Badger state reportedly had the third-highest rate of road rage incidents involving a gun with incidents resulting in 21 injuries and deaths.

Wisconsin joined a small list of states also facing a similar uptick in road rage shootings including New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and Tennessee.

But what is enabling these violent flashes of road rage to continue?

Officials with Everytown for Gun Safety believe the lack of gun control is among one of the many reasons why these incidents are ongoing.

“Driving gets heated in plenty of other countries, but only in the U.S. is someone shot and injured or killed every 17 hours in a road rage incident,” said Sarah Burd-Sharps, director of research for Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. “The difference is clear: easy access to guns can turn these incidents deadly. We’ve seen a national increase in shootings during the pandemic, and this increase has played out on our streets and highways, too.”

More than a decade ago, Wisconsin passed a law allowing licensed residents to carry a concealed firearm in public.

Under the law, Wisconsin is a “shall issue” state, meaning individuals can get issued a license to carry a concealed weapon if they meet certain qualifications. A license cannot be issued if they meet the following qualifications. 

  • Is less than 21 years of age;
  • Is prohibited under federal or Wisconsin law from possessing a firearm;
  • Is not a Wisconsin resident; or
  • Has not provided proof of training.

Everytown for Gun Safety states that these laws are ‘weak’ and allow for incidents such as these to become more of a common occurrence.

“This new data makes it clear that seatbelts and airbags aren’t enough to keep Americans safe on the road – we need to stop NRA allies in the statehouses from passing permitless carry legislation, which will lead to more untrained and unvetted people carrying guns in cars,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Drivers have enough to worry about – the last thing they should have to fear is that every traffic misunderstanding could end with shots being fired.