Is Deadly Road Rage on the Rise? Pennsylvania Man Shoots 18-Year-Old in Head, Flees Scene

caution tape

Could you be a victim of road rage? | iStock.com/Prathaan

It’s one of those stories that sound too insane to be true. Bianca Roberson, an 18-year-old recent high school graduate and honor student of Pennsylvania, went shopping at her local mall for new clothes for college on June 28. On her way home, her Chevy Malibu and a red pickup truck both attempted to merge onto Route 100 in West Goshen, Pennsylvania. After a brief standoff at the merge point, the male driver of the truck shot her in the head with a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun, killing her instantly, according to Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan. CNN reported the shooting caused her car to go off the road.

In the days following the shooting, a statewide manhunt ensued for the suspect. Eventually, 28-year-old David Desper turned himself in and has been charged with murder. According to the Daily News, Desper’s friends and colleagues described him as “even-keeled” and are completely shocked by the allegations.

“This is the story of a savage and senseless murder,” Hogan said. “Somebody didn’t want to give way. Somebody didn’t want to merge into a lane of traffic. And because of that, a young woman is dead.”

The Roberson family mourns the loss

Church candles in red and yellow

Friends of the victim remember her “contagious smile.” | iStock.com/Encrier

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Roberson’s family sat in the audience as Hogan and a team of police officials in West Goshen Township announced Desper’s charges: first- and third-degree murder, possession of an instrument of crime, and reckless endangerment.

Mourning friends and family remembered Roberson as someone with a “contagious smile.” They recounted how excited she was to start college at Florida’s Jacksonville University this fall, where she planned to study to become an FBI forensic agent.

Road rage is on the rise

Angry driver shouting

The majority of drivers admit to road rage. | iStock.com/Chris Ryan

Road rage is common. A report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found nearly 80% of drivers expressed “significant anger, aggression, or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the past year.” Approximately 8 million U.S. drivers engaged in extreme road rage — for example, purposefully ramming another vehicle or getting out of the car to confront another driver — according to the report.

Philly.com spoke to Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University and former president of the American Psychological Association. He said the increase in road rage-related issues could be caused by a variety of factors, including “more congested highways, busier schedules, and an increasing acceptance of aggressive behavior.”

Events are hard to track

Traffic jams up on the Kennedy Expressway

There are no solid statistics on road rage. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Pennsylvania and New Jersey police told Philly.com road rage is difficult to track because it isn’t uniformly reported. One case might be logged as reckless driving. But another might be reported as a terroristic threat.

3-year-old killed in apparent road rage

yellow law enforcement line with police car

Children often end up as victims. | iStock.com/Carlballou

In late 2016, 3-year-old Acen King became one of the youngest road rage victims of the year when he was fatally shot after his grandmother got into an altercation at a stop sign. The grandmother did not realize the boy had been shot and drove away. When she reached her destination and noticed Acen was injured, he was taken to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, where he later died. His 1-year-old brother was also in the car but was not injured.

Gary Holmes, 33, was later arrested and charged with terroristic threats and capital murder in the case. He told police the car was “following too closely,” which upset him.

NFL players fall victim to road rage violence

Joe McKnight of the New York Jets poses

Road rage affects everyone, even NFL stars. | NFL via Getty Images

Two recent high-profile road rage cases involved NFL players Joe McKnight and Will Smith. Both were killed in separate events in New Orleans in 2016.

Former New York Jets running back McKnight was 28 when he was shot to death in the middle of the afternoon during an apparent case of road rage. The suspect, 54-year-old Ronald Gasser, stayed on the scene and surrendered his weapon once police arrived.

Meanwhile, the man charged with shooting retired New Orleans Saints player Will Smith was sentenced to 25 years in prison following his conviction.

U.S. soldier a victim of road rage while home on leave

A soldier salutes the flag during a welcome home ceremony

A soldier is yet another victim of road rage. | John Moore/Getty Images

In fall 2016, a U.S. Army soldier on a two-week leave from Germany was the victim of road rage. Luis Diaz, 22, was shot behind the ear a few hours after landing stateside. He survived the attack, but doctors expect him to remain a quadriplegic. Diaz wasn’t supposed to be home that day but had come home early to surprise his family. He was on leave to attend his cousin’s wedding.