Local road rage incidents on the rise
Road rage incidents are on the rise, according to local public safety officials, who warn drivers to keep cool behind the wheel to avoid prosecution, injury and even death.
“(Road rage) is silly behavior for adults to engage in,” Nevada County District Attorney Cliff Newell said. “It can always be avoided.”
Population growth in Nevada County has spurred an increase in the number of cars on the road, which in turn has heightened road rage incidents, California Highway Patrol Officer Dina Hernandez said.
“We’re seeing more and more problems with road rage,” she said. “There are just more cars on the road now. I’ve seen some pretty ugly things out there.”
Calls to police regarding road rage incidents also show road rage occurs locally on a regular basis – at least once a week – according to Grass Valley police and Nevada County sheriff’s records.
At least 1,500 men, women and children are seriously injured or killed every year in the United States as a result of traffic disputes and altercations, according to the latest statistics from the American Automobile Association.
In addition, at least 218 men, women and children were murdered and 12,610 injured as a result of 10,037 aggressive driving incidents between January 1990 and September 1996, according to the AAA. An aggressive driving incident is defined by the AAA as an incident in which an angry or impatient motorist or passenger intentionally injures or kills another motorist, passenger or pedestrian in response to a traffic dispute.
Road rage landed Grass Valley resident Samuel Marisco, 30, in court last week for his part in an alleged fist fight by the side of Norlene Way on Oct. 18, 2006.
Marisco’s alleged victim, Christopher Higley, 46, told CHP investigators Marisco tailgated him, flashed his headlights, honked his horn, pulled up next to him and motioned for him to stop after Higley cut him off, according to the police report.
When Higley stopped his car and got out, Marisco allegedly punched him in the face, breaking his left cheek and left eye socket bone, Higley told investigators.
However, the jury took about 30 minutes to return a verdict of not guilty on Feb. 28, Marisco’s attorney, James Dremann of Reno, said Monday.
Higley’s version of the story was incomplete, Dremann said. Marisco also suffered a black eye and Higley’s cheekbone had been broken in a previous fight, he said.
“It was mutual combat,” Dremann said, adding that Marisco was trying to get Higley to pull over because Marisco’s truck was damaged when Higley cut him off, and he wanted to exchange insurance information.
Higley is suing Marisco for $75,000 in civil court for damages, Dremann said.
District Attorney Cliff Newell could not be reached Monday for comment on Marisco’s acquittal.
Regardless of who threw the first punch, neither man ever should have gotten out of his car, according to the CHP’s rules for road rage avoidance.
“Don’t try to engage in any confrontation,” Officer Hernandez said. “You don’t know who you’re dealing with, so as hard as it is, take a deep breath and pull away from the situation. If someone is following you, go to the nearest police station or call 911. We will respond.”
To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail rmoormeister@theunion,com or call 477-4236.
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