LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — After a suspected road rage shooting that left a 6-year-old and her father hospitalized, police data shows incidents similar to it have increased in North Las Vegas since the pandemic.
Donavyn Stern, 23, faced a North Las Vegas judge Monday morning for his involvement in the July 5 shooting. A $130,000 bail was set for allegedly shooting two people inside the car that police documents say had scratched his girlfriend’s car minutes prior.
He faces four counts of attempted murder: two counts for the 6-year-old girl and adult male shot, and two counts for the girl’s mother and 2-year-old sister who were also inside the car during the shooting. Police documents say both victims are expected to survive but with “permanent scarring/disfigurement” where shot on their bodies.
According to North Las Vegas Police, calls for traffic complaints and reckless and aggressive driving citations have steadily increased since 2021. So far this year, more than half of these calls received in 2022 have already been received in 2023.
Stephen Benning, UNLV associate professor of psychology, calls the road rage “surge” of emotions after a driver’s safety or dominance is challenged normally. Though, how people react to these emotions varies.
“A lot of these situations are often caused by people just not paying full attention,” Benning said inside a UNLV laboratory Monday afternoon. “Both people feel like their physiological, physical safety is going to be impacted. That’s where the escalations can really happen.”
He categorizes road rage into two categories: “dispositional road rage” – which he says is experienced in people with aggression-related personality traits that lead them to react in more angry ways – and “situational road rage” – which he says is experienced in people mostly without those aggression-related traits who are just responding to the situation in front of them.
Heat may also play a factor, he says, as the Las Vegas valley reaches temperatures above 100 degrees for the first time in over half a year. Benning points to the effect heat has on the nervous system that both helps a person cool off and activate their fight-or-flight response.
“(Heat) might drive up their physiological activity as well, so that they might confuse that overall physiological activity and sense of discomfort with being mistreated on the road,” Benning said.
In North Las Vegas, reckless and aggressive driving penalties can reach over $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail. Nevada law increases those penalties when a deadly weapon and bodily injury are involved to over $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison.
In a statement, a North Las Vegas Police representative recommends drivers involved in road rage situations to drive the opposite way from the provoking car and to report potentially dangerous incidents immediately. They add:
“Driving on our roadways is not a game. It’s not, now that you cut me off, I get to cut you off. You’re operating a vehicle that weighs thousands of pounds and speeds that can be very unforgiving if we’re all not paying attention to the roadways.“