The Washington State Patrol is warning drivers of an uptick in freeway shootings, attributing the trend to a general increase in gun violence, gang activity and in some cases, road rage.
In King County, the state’s most populous county, there have been 20 shootings on interstates or state routes so far this year, said WSP Sgt. Darren Wright. That compares with 12 shootings during a similar period last year, and a total of 40 freeway shootings in the county in 2021.
Freeway shootings in Pierce County have more than doubled so far this year, with 23 shootings compared with 10 in the same period the year prior, according to Trooper Robert Reyer. In 2021, there was a total of 31 freeway shootings in Pierce County.
“We are looking for strategies to reduce this, but they are very random, and evolve quickly, so it is difficult to predict, and plan for,” Wright said Friday.
While some incidents are the results of escalated road rage, he said some incidents also appear to be gang-related.
Most recently, on April 2, WSP responded to a report that people in a Kia Sorrento and a Jeep Compass were shooting at each other on northbound Interstate 5 in Tukwila. After a collision with a third vehicle, two people in the Kia ran away and were later arrested by Tukwila police. The occupant of the Jeep was taken to the hospital with a non-life-threatening injury and was also booked into jail, WSP said.
These shootings between vehicles also occur on city streets and country roads, though WSP primarily responds to incidents occurring on freeways, Reyer said.
The increase mirrors the general increase in gun violence seen in 2021 and so far this year, he said.
Last year, 88 people were fatally shot in King County and 372 wounded by gunfire. The number surpassed 2020’s record high of 69 firearm-related homicides and 268 shooting injuries.
In the first quarter of this year, 26 homicides were committed in King County, compared with 23 in 2021 and 22 in 2020 during the same three-month period.
Reyer said some of the shootings stem from road rage after some form of aggression, like a facial expression, gesture or honk on the horn after someone is cut off or being followed too closely.
While some of these incidents are unavoidable and impolite behavior is not an excuse for violence, he recommends drivers try to stay calm and not give in to the behaviors that may aggravate other drivers.
“If you were at the wrong time at the wrong place, there’s a chance that maybe somebody will just not like the way you drive,” Reyer said.