Road rage murder is the most extreme version of what is seen as a widespread safety concern for American drivers over the past decade, aggressive driving.
The New Jersey police officer who allegedly shot a man to death in an act of road rage has been charged with second degree murder and manslaughter by Maryland authorities.
Joseph Walker, an officer in the Hudson County, N.J., prosecutor’s office is being held on a $1 million bond, according to Maryland State Police, for allegedly shooting Joseph Harvey, Jr. on an on-ramp to Route 3, twenty miles south of Baltimore on Saturday.
The motive for the altercation remains unknown. Walker, an off-duty officer, was in a minivan with his wife and three children, according to Maryland State Police spokeswoman Elena Russo. The two vehicles came to a stop on the on-ramp and Harvey allegedly exited his vehicle and walked toward Walker before being shot.
Troopers say they were told that the two vehicles were involved in a road rage incident before they pulled over and the shooting took place.
“Certainly, this appears this is some sort of aggressive behavior gone bad,” Ms. Russo said in an interview with CBS New York.
Road rage has ranked as a top concern of American drivers over the past decade, according to several studies.
In a 2009 survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Security, nearly 9 in 10 respondents said they believed aggressive drivers were a “somewhat” or “very serious” threat to their personal safety.
In 2005, a telephone survey by ABC News and The Washington Post found that out of a list of threats that “most endanger your own safety on the road,” 32 percent of respondents said aggressive drivers. This was the same number of responses as for drunk drivers.
While road rage attracts more attention, the AAA and other organizations actually distinguish between road rage, which is a criminal offense, and aggressive driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, road rage must include the intent to cause physical harm.
Analysts say aggressive driving, which includes speeding, tailgating, and running red lights, is the more common problem and can lead to road rage or other traffic related fatalities.