Recently, there have been a few high-profile, national news attention receiving “road rage” incidents, and I have seen increased chatter on this topic—from a number of angles—on the “gun” forums. As someone who has been driving for about 28 years, most of which has been in the most heavily traveled corridor in the United States, AND as someone who has taken some coursework (vehicle tactics as well as some others) that address these concerns, I thought I would opine a bit on this topic.
In at least one of these recent, high-profile events, it seems that the aggressor was a licensed member of the concealed carry community (see here). This is a concern. If you have a CCW but are prone to sudden bursts of anger and frustration, I am going to say right now that you probably should not be carrying that firearm (at least for now). Get your anger issues under control and then revisit the idea of carrying a firearm. If traffic is something that stresses you out, explore alternatives. Carpooling, public transportation, or just leaving earlier so you do not stress about being late to your destination can all help reduce your level of anxiety.
Carrying a firearm should bring with it a certain “heaviness” of responsibility. You need to do as much as you can to reduce your “footprint”, if you will. Practice avoidance. Refrain from honking your horn in an angry manner (a simple “toot” to alert someone who is about to back into you is different from laying on the horn for ten seconds), using obscene hand gestures, rolling down the window to yell at others, or anything else that brings attention to you or your emotional state. Along those lines, if someone feels like you have slighted him or her through your driving and tries to engage with you, avoid this at all costs. Give that person space, go around an extra block and then resume your journey, etc. Remember, just like when you are on foot, any argument or fight that takes place between you and someone else includes at least one firearm: yours! If that firearm discharges, your life will get a lot more complicated. Do you want these complications in your life over something as petty as being cut off on the road? Avoid, avoid, avoid.
In discussing this topic with John, one of his suggestions was to always do your best to be behind the other car. In other words, if they are behind you and acting crazy, figure out a way to let them pass you (slowing down and pulling to the side of the road, making an extra turn you didn’t otherwise plan to make, etc.). It’s easier to react to things that are in front of you than behind you.
When Avoidance Fails
I grew up driving in one of the most crowded places in the country (on Earth, actually). More than once, I have been trapped in with other cars at a stop light and had someone get out of a car and yell at me. It has never amounted to anything, but it could have.
I feel embarrassed to have to say this, but recent discussions I have seen online indicate that more than a handful of people out there do NOT get this: if someone gets out of his car and approaches yours and starts yelling at you, cursing, verbally threatening, even pounding on your windows or on the hood of your car, you cannot shoot this person! Unless he has the means to enter your car (a hammer or brick to get through your side window) and is actively attempting to do so, or has some sort of item that can penetrate your car (a firearm, for example), the threat to you is not really imminent. Keep your windows rolled up, keep your doors locked, try to remain calm, record what you can on video (if practicable), perhaps even try some apologetic gestures that indicate that you did not mean to cut him off/you didn’t see him, etc. While I think readying your pistol for access might be a good plan, I would hesitate to actually draw even to a position below-window level, as someone could see this, and then if THEY draw and shoot, they can claim self-defense! You may not be the only armed person at the scene.
I think it is a great idea, once you have some of the more basic classes under your belt, to seek out some quality “vehicle tactics” classes. To date I have taken two classes specifically billed as vehicle-centric, with other classes that have incorporated elements of vehicle tactics. I will caution our readers to do their due diligence with these courses. For most of our readers, paramilitary vehicle team-tactics classes are probably not appropriate, nor are most classes that are geared toward the law enforcement community. There may be portions of some of these classes that are applicable to the civilian gunfighter, but it may take an analytical mind to figure out what is and what is not useful. One class that I thought was excellent for “regular people” was John Murphy’s (FPF Training) vehicle class, which I reviewed here. This is less about shooting through windshields and more about video analysis of real events, practicing avoidance techniques, accessing your tools while belted into a seat, etc. Others who are well-regarded in this area of vehicle tactics for the civilian include Dave Spaulding and Craig Douglas.
In this day and age, almost everything seems to end up on video. While keeping your smart phone handy and ready to record if something should happen can be useful, this may not be ideal. For one thing, you might only end up recording the after-effects of whatever took place. Also, if the situation deteriorates quickly, you might need your hands unencumbered in order to access other tools. Accordingly, though I have not yet purchased or utilized dashcams, I am definitely considering it, as they can capture all the action, from precipitating events through possible use of force. The system I am currently looking at is this one, which is the same model as what came up for me as “Amazon best seller”, but is an upgraded version with an additional rearward-facing camera (great if someone starts riding your bumper in a rage). Definitely something to consider for road rage as well as other incidents.
In addition to training in the hard skills, make sure that you take courses or read good sources on use of force law. Obviously, as a civilian gunfighter, you should already be constantly familiarizing yourself with the legal use of force and the implications thereof. A great resource that John and I have both mentioned in the past is Andrew Branca’s “The Law of Self Defense, 3rd Edition”, which has been in the Recommended Books section of our blog for about a year. It’s a great a read and a useful resource to revisit from time to time.
If you are prone to road rage, just stop. If you cannot seem to, then I suggest not carrying a firearm for a while until you get this under control. If you are the victim of road rage, practice avoidance at all costs. Drive away if you can (always leave yourself an out!). If not, make sure access to your car is restricted (windows up, doors locked), try to de-escalate through words or gestures, get a video recording of what you can. Be ready to use your vehicle or your “tools” as weapons of last resort. Be alive when you arrive.
Have you ever been the victim of some type of road rage incident? What strategies did you employ in your situation? Also, what other strategies and tactics do you think might prove useful in such a scenario? Please share below or on our Facebook page. Also, please note that a few links above will take you to Amazon through our Amazon affiliate page. Should you purchase items through our affiliate page, we receive a (very) small percentage of the sale at no cost to you.