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Man shot, killed in Howell, MI road rage incident

September 9, 2014 by Steven M. Gursten

Here are 5 things you can do when confronted with road rage, which always has the potential to turn violent

Road rage victim Derek Fleming is survived by his wife and two children.
Road rage victim Derek Fleming is survived by his wife and two children.

Derek Flemming stepped out of his SUV earlier this week at a traffic light near Howell, Michigan to confront another motorist — only to be shot and killed.

The shooter, Martin E. Zale, 69, now faces an open murder charge from the Livingston County Prosecutor’s Office, according to a recent story in The Detroit Free Press, “Road rage victim’s wife: ‘He was only trying to protect me.”

Derek’s wife, Amy Flemming, has told police Zale’s pickup had been speeding and nearly struck their Ford Escape as it came wheeling off a side road. It is alleged that Derek, 43, did not touch Zale or threaten to harm him.

Still, the public outcry has not only been for the senseless loss of his life, but raises questions as to why he approached a stranger’s vehicle after aggressive driving behavior.

Nobody should be killed in such a terrible way over such a small incident, and no one should blame the victim. But this is often what we see with road rage. Small driving decisions combined with stress and anger can crank up emotions quickly and violently in a matter of seconds. People lose control, and they lose good driving judgment. As an attorney, I’ve seen it from time to time in the cases I’ve handled. Often there are threats and exchange of profanity after an auto accident. This is happening all the time.

Here are some things you can do to protect yourself from dangerous road rage confrontations. Because road rage always has the potential to turn violent.

  1. Don’t play around. Avoid the hand gestures and nonverbal communication that comes along with road rage.
  2. Don’t reciprocate. If someone cuts you off, be the bigger person and move to the other lane.
  3. Don’t get out of your car. Never leave your car to confront the other driver. You don’t know who is out there and what they’re capable of.
  4. Remain calm. With road rage, people see red. But if you can take a deep breath and move past the stress safely, you can likely avoid it all together.
  5. Call 911: If you feel you’re in danger, call the police. Or drive to a nearby venue where it’s safe to do so.
  6. Report aggressive drivers: Contact the local state police to make a report with detailed information.

Here’s a recent blog I wrote about Michigan’s laws regarding road rage. Hint… there is no such specific road rage law, but there are traffic laws that address careless driving and reckless driving, which could apply. And, as my partner and past-president of the Michigan Association for Justice Robert Raitt was saying on Fox News recently, you don’t need to stick around a situation if you have real concerns for your own safety.

Derek Fleming was the father of two children. His wife has said he only left the car to protect her.

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