What began as aggressive driving on the Kilpatrick Turnpike led to the death of one man in a northwest Oklahoma City parking lot and life in prison for another.
In late October, the prosecution rested its case against David Bloebaum, accused of first degree murder in the September 2012 shooting death of 29-year-old Jason Yousif. The defense,which claimed Bloebaum acted in self-defense when he shot Yousif five times in a Target parking lot, also rested its case, but without calling a single witness.
The following day, a jury deliberated for about an hour after hearing closing arguments and returned with a guilty verdict for charges of first degree murder and unlawful use of a firearm.
On Friday, Bloebaum was sentenced for his murder conviction. Oklahoma County District Judge Timothy R. Henderson followed the jury's recommendation in sentencing Bloebaum, 59, to life in prison without parole. Bloebaum plans to appeal.
Bloebaum has maintained since the shooting that he acted in self defense when he fired at Yousif from inside his vehicle. He said that the younger man reached into the vehicle to try to stab him, but witness testimony seemed to contradict Bloebaum's claims. Witnesses did, however, testify that when Yousif fell to the ground after being shot, a knife fell from his hand.
Regardless of the scenario that led to one man's murder and another man's life sentence, it could not have been worth it for either man. Annoying driving on the turnpike can make anyone angry, but it shouldn't make a person angry enough to take or to lose a life.
According to SafeMotorist.org, a website of the American Safety Council, road rage is defined as "incidents of screaming, rude gestures, and sometimes even violence." The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) says road rage is "an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of one motor vehicle on the operator or passenger(s) of another motor vehicle or is caused by an incident that occurred on a roadway."
In general, road rage is marked by rude or obscene language and gestures or aggressive driving. Aggressive driving, the threat of violence, and violence are criminal acts that could lead to injury or death, and for the perpetrator of road rage, it could lead to significant legal consequences.
How prevalent is road rage? The NHTSA and Auto Vantage statistics compiled at SafeMotorist.org are concerning:
- 66% of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving.
- 37% of aggressive driving incidents involve a firearm.
- Males under the age of 19 are the most likely to exhibit road rage.
- Half of drivers who are on the receiving end of an aggressive behavior, such as horn honking, a rude gesture, or tailgating admit to responding with aggressive behavior themselves.
- Over a seven year period, 218 murders and 12,610 injuries were attributed to road rage.
- 2% of drivers admit to trying to run an aggressor off the road.
Most of us have been angry at another driver at one time or another, whether that driver's aggressive or reckless driving nearly caused an accident, or whether we're annoyed by a driver going too slow in the passing lane. Regardless of the reason for our anger, most people wouldn't dream of killing someone over a traffic incident. Yet in the heat of anger, a situation can quickly escalate--especially when both involved drivers react out of anger.
Are you prone to road rage? You may think you aren't, but these indicators from the American Safety Council may cause you to reconsider your actions behind the wheel and take steps to calm down while driving:
- Do you regularly drive over the speed limit, or try to "beat" red lights because you are in a hurry?
- Do you tailgate or flash your headlights at a driver in front of you that you believe is driving too slowly?
- Do you honk the horn often?
- Do you ever use obscene gestures or otherwise communicate angrily at another driver?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you might have a problem with road rage. If you answered no, you aren't off the hook, though. While you may not have road rage yourself, you may have driving behaviors that provoke it. The American Safety Council notes that the following acts may ignite road rage in others:
- Do you frequently use your phone while driving, or otherwise drive while distracted?
- Do you keep your high beams on, regardless of oncoming traffic?
- Do you switch lanes or make turns without using your turn signal?
- Do you fail to check your blind spot before switching lanes to make sure you aren't cutting someone off?
Whether you are an aggressive driver or a thoughtless driver, it makes sense to evaluate your own driving behavior to make sure that you are being a safe driver. Calming down and paying attention to your driving can help prevent avoidable accidents and incidents of violence on Oklahoma roadways. Learn more about aggressive driving and road rage here.