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Indiana tops US in road rage fatalities

August 25, 2018

Indiana led the nation two years ago in the number of fatal crashes involving road rage and aggressive driving, a study released this week says.

But an Indiana Criminal Justice Institute official and two police officers said the fatal crashes cited in the report likely didn’t include physical altercations like the one that led to a man’s death after an incident this month in Fort Wayne.

The study by Auto Insurance Center said there were 77 fatal crashes involving road rage and aggressive driving in Indiana in 2016, the latest year full data are available. Those crashes accounted for about 10 percent of all fatal crashes in the state that year, according to the report.

Auto Insurance Center says it’s an industry-driven news and information site that covers all things automotive. The study cites statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

After Indiana, Colorado was second on the list with 53 fatal crashes involving road rage and aggressive driving, about 9.5 percent of all fatal crashes in the state that year. South Carolina and Alabama each had 64 such crashes, about 6.8 percent; and Connecticut had 16 such crashes or 5.7 percent. Wisconsin’s 22 crashes accounted for 4 percent.

Will T. Wingfield, communications director at the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, said the Indiana cases in the study are based on crash reports and likely wouldn’t include details such as physical altercations if there were no crashes.

Details involving such physical violence are covered in separate crime reports, he said. Fort Wayne police Lt. Tony Maze and Ron Galaviz, public information officer with the Indiana State Police at Fort Wayne, agreed. 

Last week, Brandon Cook was charged with involuntary manslaughter after he allegedly punched Orlando Fernandez, 60, on U.S. 30 near U.S. 33 on Fort Wayne’s northwest side Aug. 8. Both men had gotten out of their vehicles after Fernandez “brake checked” Cook, police said. The coroner said Fernandez died from heart failure and ruled his death a homicide.

Police called the incident road rage, but Wingfield and Maze said this incident likely wouldn’t have been included in Auto Insurance Center’s study because there was no crash.

Road rage or not, “aggressive driving is a problem,” Wingfield said. “Road rage happens after aggressive driving.”

Following too closely, improper lane changing, failure to yield and excessive speed are among aggressive driving behaviors and major causes of fatal crashes, Wingfield and the officers said.

The Auto Insurance Center report said there could be differences in how states report and define aggressive driving. 

California, for example, had only 1 fatal crash in 2016 that involved road rage or aggressive driving, the report said. Twenty-one states had no crashes related to road rage or aggressive driving, it said.

Galaviz said although the report was “surprising and disappointing,” it showed how aggressive Indiana is in investigating and reporting such crashes.

“As an agency, we take pride in doing a thorough investigation,” he said of the state police.

jchapman@jg.net

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