NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Two former NFL players lost their lives in the New Orleans area after traffic-related incidents that involved heated words, and that has average citizens concerned about road rage.
"Road-rage is obviously on the increase in the United States. We have more people on the road," said Ashraf Esmail, a criminologist and sociologist at Dillard University in New Orleans.
Joe McKnight, who played for the Jets and the Chiefs, was shot to death just outside of New Orleans in neighboring Jefferson Parish by another driver after police said they engaged in "bad behavior" while driving. In April, former New Orleans Saints player Will Smith was fatally wounded by another driver after a traffic accident in New Orleans.
Experts said tensions do not have to escalate on the roadways.
"Your natural instinct might be to yell, might be to honk, might be to get riled up - a car's about to hit you, that's natural that you react. The next moment is the important one of being able to have that reaction and then go whew let me calm down and think for a minute before I do anything else, said Michelle Moore, an LSU Health clinical psychologist.
Esmail talked about why it seems many people are willing to get aggressive with other drivers.
"Part of the thing with road-rage is there isn't sort of documented crime, so people feel like they can do it and get away with it because they're not going to see those bystanders ever again," he said.
One gender tends to resort to aggressive behavior on the road more than the other.
"What we're finding is this impacts men ages 19 to 39 most often, eight out of 10 people surveyed indicate that they've engaged in some sort of road rage, one out of every five indicate that they have engaged in violent behavior, and of the 8 million documented road rage incidents, in terms of violent behavior, 37 percent involve fire arms," Esmail said.
"I think that's what often happens in the car, people have a hard time letting it go and they start going faster to get up behind that person and they're tail-gating that person, that's when that road-rage builds up," Moore said.
And they said there are some people in society who just feel compelled to respond to every perceived wrong.
"That is their automatic reaction is to always fight, is to always get worked up, is to always have the last word, right? We know those people to feel that you have wronged me and it's your fault and you deserve punishment for that," Moore said.
"When somebody feels they've been attacked, even in a car, they want to get some sort of revenge in that instance because they feel like, 'I could just have been killed,'" added Esmail.
But they said that should not prompt drivers to take risky actions.
"What's never appropriate is to stop your car and get out of your car in the middle of the street and go running after people," said Moore.
"Tell it like it is, the traffic is going to get worse, stop being bumper-to-bumper and just trying to jump in front of people," Esmail said.
Moore said when driving, proper perspective is needed.
"This isn't the end of the world," Moore said.