Experts say that someone is shot and either injured or killed every 17 hours in a road rage incident. It's a shocking statistic that hits close to home for two Houston fathers who spoke to Inside Edition.
Road rage has swept the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Miami, cops say a driver opened fire after a road rage incident. In Washington, an irate driver actually chucked an ax at another car. The alleged attackers in both incidents have pleaded not guilty.
But perhaps nowhere has the road rage problem gotten more out of control during the pandemic than in Houston, Texas. Rania Mankarious, CEO of Crimestoppers of Houston, says the problem is destroying innocent lives.
“We've seen an overwhelming spike in road rage especially over the last year,” Mankarious said.
Paul Castro and his son David were returning from a day at the ballpark last summer, when he says an enraged driver chased after them.
“David said, ‘Dad, he's still following us,’ and I said, ‘It's going to be okay, son,’ and it wasn't okay,” Castro said.
Surveillance video shows a white car following Castro’s pickup truck before the driver allegedly pulled a gun.
“I just heard this explosion and it was the simultaneous sound of a gunshot and broken glass. In the movies, the first shot misses. He didn't miss. He hit my son,” Castro said.
David, a musically talented honors student with a bright future, was killed.
“David was one of the nicest kids you could ever meet. Thirty seconds of bad decision-making by that person ended David's life and has destroyed the lives of me and his mom. I’m suffering in public right now, so that other people don't,” Castro said.
The suspect who was charged with first degree murder in David’s death has pleaded not guilty and denies shooting the boy.
“I think people are just angry a lot more. And so in the past, a person was angry, flip people off, give them the bird. And now, someone gets mad at you, it’s possible that they might shoot at you,” Castro said.
Castro says he is incensed that his son’s alleged killer is out on bail while awaiting trial.
“I was so enraged to know that the man who killed my son was being released. It’s time to take action. It’s time to take our cities back,” Castro said.
The statistics are shocking. Experts say that someone is shot and either injured or killed every 17 hours in a road rage incident.
In another Houston incident, Frank Grant's 9-year-old daughter Ashanti was shot just three months ago.
“It was shocking. You don't think it can happen to you until it happens to you,” Grant said.
She survived, but Grant says his daughter is going to have to learn to walk and talk again. Her shooter remains at large.
“It's senseless. She just didn't deserve that,” Grant said.
The Houston Police Department's traffic enforcement unit recently took Inside Edition’s chief investigative correspondent Lisa Guerrero out on a special detail targeting aggressive drivers.
“Our goal is to keep the roadways safe. Primarily in the busiest times of day, we try to put officers and supervisors out there. People are on their way home. They’ve had long days. Nobody likes to sit in rush hour traffic. That’s when tempers seem to be the highest, so we try to be most visible during those times in order to help reduce the amounts of road rage or aggressive driving,” Sgt. Matthew Ham said.
“Now more and more people are apt to reach for a gun. How big of a problem is that?” Guerrero asked.
“That's a big problem. If they're pulling out a gun and taking it into their own hands, then it makes a bad situation even worse,” Sgt. Ham said.
They cited a Corvette for reckless driving, something police say can often spark a road rage incident.
“If you see those kinds of behaviors, somebody driving aggressively or engaging in road rage, call 911. So instead of making a bad situation worse, de-escalate it,” Sgt. Ham said.
Paul Castro still can’t believe he lost his son in such a senseless act.
“You have to assume that the other person might be armed. I didn't honk. I didn't flip the guy off, and my son paid with his life. Let it go.”
Experts also say that if you encounter an irate driver, don't reciprocate and don't make eye contact. Try to switch lanes to give them space or even leave the highway. Don’t stop the car and if you're being followed, just keep driving and don’t stop until you get to a police station.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help with Ashanti's recovery.