Illinois ramps up efforts to curb surge in road rage incidents

While the number of expressway shootings in Illinois is decreasing, it's still a high concern for law enforcement. That’s because more and more of them are due to road rage.

In a FOX 32 Special Report, Tia Ewing takes a look at why and what's being done about it.

Just about all of us are guilty of it once we get behind the wheel and have to deal with Chicago traffic - road rage.

Who doesn’t like being cut off in traffic? Or being tailgated? Or holding your breath as a speeding car just misses hitting yours?

"It used to be the gesturing of telling someone they were ‘number one’," said Maj. David Keltner, Chicago Region Commander of the Illinois State Police. "That’s no longer the case. Very quickly that initiation of responding to that other aggressive driver is a few words or a gesture and before we know it a handgun has been pulled."

"Through our enforcement efforts, we’ve seen shootings go down over the last three years for Chicagoland interstates, but we’ve seen that road rage number kick up."

According to Illinois State Police statistics, over 40% of expressway shootings in both the Chicago area and across the state were road rage related for the last two years.

"And now this year, we’ve had a total of 21 shootings in the Chicagoland area on the interstates and 11 of those are attributed to road rage. So 52% now of our shootings are related to road rage," Keltner said.

Those numbers have continued to climb since Keltner spoke with Fox 32.

"When we investigate these incidents, it’s hard to believe two individuals can have such a short period of time to interact and become that violent that quickly," he said.

Earlier this year, Illinois State Police took to the expressways and social media to launch a public awareness campaign in an effort to help reduce this type of expressway shooting. The message is simple.

"Road rage. Don’t engage," Keltner said.

Antonio Garcia-Dealba’s case is just one example of how fast road rage can take a wrong turn. The 53-year-old is currently serving two years at Stateville Correctional Center for shooting at another vehicle when both were stopped at a Burr Ridge intersection last August.


Man charged with road rage shooting in Burr Ridge

Prosecutors said Antonio Garcia-Dealba flipped her off, and then slowed down so she could pass him and shot at her car.

According to DuPage County prosecutors, Garcia-Dealba shot at the victim after she honked her horn because the light had turned green and he had not moved.

Gregory Johnson, 43, is charged in DuPage County circuit court with aggravated discharge of a firearm following an expressway shooting at I-290 and North Avenue last summer.

Prosecutors said this road rage incident began when the victim brake checked Johnson for following him too closely. While the victim tried to drive away, they said Johnson continued to follow. After rear-ending the victim’s car, Johnson allegedly "covered his face with a ski mask, appeared at the passenger side of the victim’s car, and fired approximately eight shots from his vehicle into the victims."


Chicago man charged in road rage shooting on Eisenhower Expressway

A Chicago man accused of firing a handgun on I-290 during a road rage incident in Elmhurst was denied bond Sunday.

The other drivers involved were lucky.

So far, there have been five fatal road rage shootings on Illinois expressways this year. Last year, there were 10.

"I think since Covid," said DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin. "I think we’ve seen more road rage type incidents. I think people have just become more aggressive. People are driving a lot faster. More reckless. I’m not sure what the reason for it is, but there’s no question we’ve seen an increase."

Ryan Pietzsch is a technical advisor for the National Safety Council’s Driver Safety Program.

"We’re seeing more aggressive driving because a lot of more stress in our lives," according to Ryan Pietzsch of the National Safety Council. "Might be related to economies, cultures."

"Road rage is a big problem. Especially post-Covid we’ve seen an increase negative behavior, aggressive driving on our roadways, and aggressive driving leads to road rage."

The charges a driver can face following a road rage incident can vary. It usually depends on how much the violence escalated during the altercation.

"If they’re just traffic tickets, it’s in traffic court in front of a traffic judge," Berlin said. "If it leads to something more violent, like a battery, aggravated battery, or where there’s a firearm involved, that’s going to be in front of a criminal judge where the penalties are far more severe."

Both Johnson and Garcia-Dealba’s cases were charged in criminal court.

Drivers who receive a traffic ticket may also find themselves in the National Safety Council’s "Alive at 25" class.

Taught at Waunbonise Community College, some drivers take part in the class to keep a ticket off their record, while others are there because their license has been suspended and a judge mandated they take the class.

For those involved in a road rage incident, the goal is to learn about the attitudinal dynamics of driving or driver behavior.

"What are we doing when we are tailgating? We’re trying to control another driver," Pietzsch said.

"What we teach and what you learn in our defensive driving programs is that you can’t control other drivers through your actions. You can only control your own behavior," he said.

Pietzsch said they use a tool called the "Three R’s" to teach drivers how to better control their behavior when behind the wheel. The first "R" is to reflect on your behavior.

"Will this affect me in an hour? Two hours? Tomorrow," Pietzsch said. "Reframe the situation. Is there anything I can do to make my environment safer for me?"

"Refocus on what is important. They forget the reason they are driving is to get to a destination and the goal should be to get there safely."

Eugene Richardson teaches one of the National Safety Council’s "Alive at 25" classes. He’s a retired Streamwood police officer with 23 years on the traffic beat.

"I’ve had kids say ‘I’ll just hit their windows with a baseball bat.’ Why would you do that? ‘Well, because he cut me off’," Richardson said.

Richardson said many students are getting the message about why it’s important to not engage in road rage.

"I tell them in the first 30 seconds of the class, you are not coming back to me. I’m going to make sure I give you everything you need so you do not come back and I really don’t get them back," Richardson said.

"A driver’s license is a privilege, not a right," Berlin said. "And with that license comes certain responsibilities. When you get behind the car and you’re on a public road everyone has a responsibility to drive carefully and be respectful of other drivers."

Since January, Illinois State Police have made at least a dozen arrests tied to road rage expressway shootings in the Chicago area that have occurred since 2022.

For more information on how to handle road rage, check out our website: