Four dead and four hurt in US road-rage shootings

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The Independent US

Los Angeles commuters are driving to work with more than usually jittery nerves after a spate of random freeway shootings that killed at least four drivers and wounded four others.

Los Angeles commuters are driving to work with more than usually jittery nerves after a spate of random freeway shootings that killed at least four drivers and wounded four others.

Police have reported eight incidents in the past month, three last weekend, and non-stop coverage on local radio stations has stoked the already-high anxiety of Angelenos.

In one attack, a 16-year-old boy got into a road-rage argument with the occupants of another car, who chased him on to the freeway and shot and wounded him. In another, a 19-year-old was hit several times but managed to manoeuvre off the road and seek help from an emergency medical crew responding to a different incident.

The shootings have spread over a wide area of three counties - Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside - and do not appear to be related, so far.

Freeway shootings feed directly into one of the greatest fears of American road-users and they have received prominent coverage in the media.

A similar frenzy erupted in the summer of 1987, when five people were killed and a dozen injured in a spate of attacks. Traffic jams, road rage and a high rate of gun ownership are almost certainly the main factors behind the outbreaks of violence, although police said they were not ruling out some kind of gang vendetta in at least one of the present cases.

Ironically, the number of freeway shootings is down this year. Even including the latest incidents, there have been 11 shootings so far in 2005, compared with 36 in the whole of 2004 and 36 in each of the previous two years.

Police have advised motorists not to alter their schedules in any way, but urged them to keep their emotions to themselves and clear out of the way if anyone speeds up behind them or flashes their lights aggressively.

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