Another Perspective: Shootings on Indiana interstates demand action

0
1205

The Republic

As the summer driving season nears, Indiana State Police are responding to a growing and troubling trend that shows no sign of slowing down: shootings on interstate highways in the Hoosier State.

State troopers are always out there, patrolling more than 3,000 interstate miles, responding to crashes and emergencies and trying to keep our roads as safe as possible. Now, unhinged people with guns have become a curse, endangering the lives of motorists and law enforcement officers.

Last year, ISP Sgt. John Perrine said there were 65 reported interstate shootings in the Indianapolis District, compared with 23 the year before and just nine in 2019 and 2018. So far this year, there have been 18 – a pace exceeding last year’s spike. Most, but not all, of the district’s shootings were in Indianapolis. In addition to Marion County, the Indianapolis District includes Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Johnson, Hendricks and Shelby counties.

Motives for the shootings vary, but they often stem from road rage, Perrine said. Suddenly, more people seem to have no problem pointing a gun on the highway – a dispatch we are hearing from motorists along Interstate 65 in our area with disturbing frequency. Worse, as Perrine’s figures show, more people seem to have no trouble pulling the trigger for any reason, or sometimes for no reason at all.

Perrine has sent out a few news releases on some of the most egregious cases so far this year. In one, a woman driving with a passenger along Interstate 70 near Shadeland Avenue in Indianapolis was shot by a passing motorist for no apparent reason. In another, a man who called a tow truck after his vehicle broke down near Plainfield shot the responding tow truck driver then fled with his truck. Fortunately, neither of these shootings was fatal, and troopers quickly nabbed suspects because tips from vigilant motorists led to arrests.

Driver vigilance will grow increasingly important as the threat from knuckleheads with guns rises. We don’t want to overstate the risk here because the fact is these cases, alarming as they are, remain rare. However, motorists should be aware that crimes such as these that we once imagined unthinkable are becoming more common.

We cannot control life’s wild cards, but some things we can control. To that end, here are some common-sense tips from Perrine and the Indiana State Police, if you should ever become the target of a road-rage incident:

  • Remain calm. Agitation or counter aggressive maneuvers can escalate the situation.
  • Drive away from the aggressor by using a turn signal to change lanes. Allow the aggressor to pass, exit the highway and stop in a well-lit, populated area.
  • Immediately report the incident to police by calling 911. Perrine noted Indiana’s Hands Free Law allows drivers to use a cellphone while driving to report an emergency to 911.

And speaking of laws, that’s another thing we can control. Our legislators need to address this disturbing trend. We believe any motorist who brandishes or uses a firearm on our highways should face significantly enhanced criminal charges and, if convicted, a mandatory prison sentence. Anyone who jeopardizes the lives of strangers deserves nothing less. Perhaps sending that message can stop this madness.