After string of road rage shootings in Dallas-Fort Worth, police talk prevention
Two people died in the past week in Fort Worth as a result of road rage, and violence on the road seems to be on the rise across the DFW area.
One man, 63-year-old Najdeh Pariai, died after police say another driver punched him on June 21 during an argument outside a strip mall. Fort Worth police identified the assault as related to road rage, and Daniel Melendez, 38, was charged with manslaughter.
On Friday, a 19-year-old man riding a motorcycle on I-35W pointed a gun at the driver of an SUV after the motorcyclist swerved out of the SUV’s way while weaving in and out of traffic, police said. The SUV driver shot the motorcyclist, JaDerek Gray, who had stopped and walked toward the SUV while pointing a gun, police said. Gray died after he was taken to a hospital. The SUV driver has not been charged.
Arlington has seen 12 road rage incidents so far this year, according to police department spokesman Tim Ciesco. During the same time period in 2020, Arlington had 10 road rage incidents.
The Fort Worth Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for information about the number of road rage incidents in the city.
Dallas has seen a string of road rage assaults. From Friday night to Monday morning, police responded to three shootings related to road rage. On Friday, a driver shot a pregnant woman in the head, Fox 4 News reported, after the driver cut her and her boyfriend off in southeast Dallas. The woman’s baby was delivered safely, but she remained in critical condition. On Sunday, police say a driver opened fire along a road in Dallas and hit two cars. One person was shot in the hand.
Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia told WFAA-TV that he is worried about the string of shootings in Dallas. He said the department plans to make police more visible on the roadways to try and prevent more violence.
“It’s definitely something we are concerned about, but again, the randomness of it is alarming and we are struggling with it,” he told WFAA in an interview.
Arlington police launched a Road Rage Hotline in July 2017 to encourage drivers to report aggressive people on the road.
“The hotline is really a tool folks can use to report aggressive drivers or incidents that may not rise to the level of an emergency,” Ciesco said.
If people can provide police with a license plate number and describe where they saw the aggressive driver, Arlington police will try to identify and locate the driver. If they are able to do so, the police department sends a letter to the driver notifying them that someone has reported them to the hotline and provide them with driving safety tips.
The goal, Ciesco said, is to make the driver aware of their driving behaviors in hopes that they’ll correct them.
Ciesco emphasized that 911 should be called immediately if a road rage incident is at all threatening or violent.
Since its inception in 2017, the hotline has received 1,253 calls, and police have sent 737 letters as a result. Last week, the department did not receive any new calls to the hotline, but police did mail out four letters.
In 2020, the Arlington Police Department also updated its reporting system so officers could categorize certain incidents as “road rage.” The change made it easier for the department to collect and track data on this type of crime. Usually, road rage incidents that result in violence are categorized as aggravated assaults because Texas does not have a specific criminal offense for road rage attacks.
In 2020, Arlington had 19 total road rage calls that resulted in a police report, Ciesco said.
Arlington officers work daily to find aggressive drivers on roadways to intervene before they’re involved in a serious or deadly assault, Ciesco said.
Dallas police provide the following tips to avoid road rage incidents:
First and foremost, be courteous.
Always use a turn signal when changing lanes.
Avoid changing lanes at the last minute.
Always check your mirrors and let faster motorists pass.
Avoid honking your horn when possible.
Remember other drivers may have had a very stressful day.
If someone continues to follow you after a couple turns, proceed to your local law enforcement agency or remain in a well lighted public area.
Plan your trip well in advance and give yourself plenty of time to arrive.