JIM SHARPE

How did fewer Arizona drivers equal more road rage?

Apr 5, 2022, 2:00 PM | Updated: 2:26 pm
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)...
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Army veteran Chris Pelkey’s three tours of duty in the Middle East didn’t kill him.

After the military, Chris went overseas to do mission work — and even though he contracted malaria, that didn’t kill Chris. 

What killed Chris Pelkey — or, more correctly, who killed Chris — was a man named Gabriel Horcasitas. But if you can say a what” killed Chris, that what would be road rage.

His sister, Stacey Wales, tells our TV partners at ABC15 that when her brother was shot to death in November at Gilbert and Germann roads in Chandler, “It was excruciating going through the holidays without him.”

I can only imagine.

Pelkey’s death (which happened as he was driving home from a church softball game) wasn’t an isolated incident. In fact, deaths like his are becoming much more common.

And Arizona is one of the top five states for road rage shootings.

Road rage shootings hit a record high last year. Across the country, 130 people were killed and almost 400 injured. That’s nearly double what we saw in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

It would seem to fly in the face of logic that we got more road rage with fewer drivers on the road. But Stacey, Chris Pelkey’s sister, believes the pandemic actually helped cause this increase in road rage deaths.

“I think people lost some of that social tact. I think we’re not as tolerant of each other because we have been away from society.” 

I think she’s onto something.

The Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety told ABC15’s Venton Blandin that Arizona saw a 23% increase in road rage between 2020 and 2021. There were 622 road rage incidents reported by law enforcement agencies in Arizona last year — up from 503 in 2020. 

Even though most of those incidents didn’t involve a gun or injuries or death — they all had that potential. And that’s why something that Stacey says is important to remember when someone does something stupid in traffic: “They don’t know you. It wasn’t personal.”

Maybe just a tiny bit more of that kind of thinking behind the wheel will have fewer soldiers’ families grieving. Not grieving because their loved ones were killed on the streets of Baghdad or Kabul — but because they were gunned down in what’s starting to feel like a war zone: the streets of Arizona.  

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How did fewer Arizona drivers equal more road rage?