UPDATE: Scroll down to the bottom of the page to read the latest...
Over the weekend, a couple of people got a case of road rage. It happened near The Shoppes of Bel-Air, at the interchange with I-65 and Airport Blvd in Mobile.
Tyra Jones tells NBC-15 News that she was taking her 16-year-old sister to the mall when a couple pulled up next to them at the exit. They were yelling at her and calling her names; and the driver of the vehicle was waving a gun around. Tyra says she doesn't even know what they were upset about, but speculated that maybe it's because she was doing the speed limit. Possible, there have been gun-related road rage incidents with drivers going too slow for someone else's taste.
I have never met Tyra, and I have no idea whether or not she's a good driver. But it's easy to imagine her or me or anyone else doing something dumb enough or oblivious enough to make another driver mad. We're faced with bad drivers every time we go out in traffic. And although I consider myself a pretty good driver (don't we all?), I'm certainly not perfect.
None of that matters, except to serve a point.
Whatever Tyra did or didn't do does not rise to a level where anyone should pull a gun on her, or otherwise threaten her bodily harm. Because even the best drivers sometimes make mistakes. Because good drivers sometimes get distracted, and bad drivers are everywhere. Yes, it's frustrating to see drivers who seemingly have no clue about the rules of the road. I personally can't stand it when people don't use their turn signal, or camp out in the left lane ("Slower traffic keep right"... please).
Bad driving can make us all crazy, which is why it's so important that drivers are able to approach the road with at least a minimum level of calm, as well as patience and the acceptance that you can't control everyone else's driving. The minute you pull a gun on another person for their driving, you've failed that test. You don't have what it takes to drive and cannot be trusted with the privilege.
This was a crime -- menacing, according to the Mobile Police -- and it's a misdemeanor. But I'd personally like to see a specific penalty. When someone pulls a gun in a road rage incident, I'd say at minimum a suspended drivers license. And if there's a child in the car, even harsher. No one has the right to cause that kind of trauma to adults or children over... driving.
Let me be clear. I'm talking specifically about a penalty for someone who can't maintain their cool on the road and pulls out a gun. This is about those who go on offense with their weapon, to either commit bodily harm or to instill fear in someone. Legitimate self-defense is a whole different ball game.
Road rage incidents involving guns have increased dramatically in the last few years, more than doubling from 2014 to 2017. In 2016, New Orleans Saints star Will Smith was killed in a road rage incident. If we can take the people off the road who seem unprepared to face the day-to-day realities of driving, then maybe we can reduce some of the violence. And they'll probably be a lot calmer (and have lower blood pressure) by taking an Uber, or the bus.
For what it's worth, Tyra appears to be getting the last laugh. She got a picture of the couple, with the driver waving his gun (a risky picture to take, I'd think, but there you go); and she took a photo of the car's license plate. They should be easy to find.
UPDATE: Police have not made any arrests yet, and our news partner NBC 15 asked why. A Mobile PD spokesperson said that it's a bit more complicated than it seems because: (1) an officer didn't actually witness the encounter; and (2) Tyra Jones waited until Monday to report the crime. Neither should stop an arrest from happening, but it could slow things down.
But here's the really annoying part: At some point, the victim would have to make an appointment to bring the case before a magistrate, and then the magistrate would decide to issue a warrant... or not. It seems a whole lot of extra work for the victim, especially if they can't get off work easily to actually see the magistrate. And if it's that hard to actually file charges, people who'd do this sort of thing will find it a whole lot easier to keep doing it.
See the update from NBC 15 below.