Bexar County in Central Texas has had the most reports of road rage crashes in the state over the last few years, according to a newspaper analysis.
From 2007 to 2011, police officers and sheriff’s deputies in Bexar County cited road rage as a contributing factor in 680 wrecks that injured 280 people, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
The figures came from a state database that tracks all vehicle accidents in Texas.
The numbers in Bexar County exceeded those in larger counties with more residents and traffic, including Harris and Dallas.
From 2007 to 2011, police throughout Texas cited road rage as a contributing factor in more than 4,400 crashes that injured more than 1,950 people and killed 32. Road rage crashes have decreased in the state in the last four years, as accidents peaked in 2008 with almost 970 wrecks. There were 804 road rage crashes last year.
The newspaper reported it was not clear from the data whether the state’s crash figures reflect a higher number of angry drivers in Bexar County or whether local police are more apt to flag some accidents as “road rage.”
The San Antonio Police Department has targeted aggressive drivers for more than a decade. Officers drive unmarked cars to find and ticket motorists who speed, tailgate and change lanes excessively. Not all police departments in Texas have such programs.
“We do have aggressive drivers, as in most other major cities,” said Capt. Patrick Murnin, the traffic section commander for San Antonio police. “We also have a substantial program to combat aggressive driving in San Antonio.”
From 2007 to 2011, road rage crashes in Texas peaked during evening rush hour, with a quarter of all accidents occurring between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., the newspaper reported.
Three out of four motorists accused of road rage were male. Statewide, a third of all road rage motorists are in their 20s.
In one road rage accident in Kirby, near San Antonio, 2-year-old Braylon Nelson was paralyzed from the neck down after the car his father was driving was hit by a truck involved in a road rage incident with another vehicle.
“To me, it doesn’t make sense. Some people just don’t get it,” said Randy Nelson, Braylon’s father, who broke his ribs, sternum and pelvis in the accident.
The two drivers that caused the accident denied they were angry or involved in a road rage incident. The drivers don’t face any criminal charges, but Kirby police have referred the case to the district attorney.
“It’s under investigation,” said First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg, who said the crash might be presented to grand jurors as an aggravated assault case.
There’s no specific criminal charge for road rage in Texas. And many drivers go unpunished because of the difficulty of proving their emotional state. Out of 230 accidents in Texas that involved injuries last year, police didn’t pursue criminal charges in 60 percent of the crashes.
In felony cases of aggravated assault, authorities must prove the driver’s intent. The misdemeanor charge of reckless driving has a lower burden of proof, but also carries less jail time. The maximum punishment is 30 days in jail and a $200 fine.