Driven by Vengeance
“An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” is one of the oldest laws in the world, appearing three times in the Old Testament (Exodus 21:23–25, Leviticus 24:20, Deuteronomy 19:21).
It was originally intended to limit a proportional punishment to the individual who committed the injury, rather than allow an entire tribe to inflict retaliation on all the members of another tribe.
Moreover, it was meant as a guide for the judge to assess the penalty, and not for an individual or group to take the law into their own hands. This law represented an advancement of civilization among ancient tribes.
However, modern society seems to be deteriorating into a primitive tit-for-tat form of revenge as people take justice into their own hands—especially when they believe it is impractical for a neutral third party to pass judgment.
Consider this recent example of vigilante “justice”:
In March, Ryan and Julie Eberly of Pennsylvania were traveling to South Carolina to celebrate their wedding anniversary. While driving on Interstate 95 in North Carolina, Ryan failed to observe proper clearance before switching into the right lane to go around a slower vehicle. His oversight forced a car onto the shoulder.
The driver of that car rolled down his tinted window and gestured, and Ryan allegedly responded by gesturing that he was sorry before returning to the left lane.
Moments later, the car with the tinted window pulled alongside the Eberlys, the driver lowered his window, and fired multiple shots into the passenger side, killing Julie Eberly, age 47, the mother of six children. The alleged perpetrator was arrested a week later and charged with first-degree murder. Whether his future will be behind bars or back behind the wheel is unknown.
“Regardless of the circumstances,” said the sheriff of the area where the shooting occurred, “no one deserve(s) to be murdered while traveling our nation’s highways.”
Tragically, road rage can quickly escalate into a life-or-death situation. In fact, 37 percent of all road rage incidents involve firearms, resulting in about thirty killings a year.
Highway vigilantism, like other forms of retaliation, appears to be motivated by the “victim’s” perception that he has been intentionally harmed or personally demeaned, according to PubMed.gov. The vigilante’s reaction is his attempt to restore self-esteem or a sense of power. His act of revenge seeks to provide a satisfactory sense of “justice being served” after a threat or perceived wrong, said the article. It need not be proportional, “especially if there is no concern to maintain any future exchange with the offender.”
“Be the bigger person” in road rage incidents, advises DMV.org, a private company that helps people navigate state motor vehicle websites. “If you’ve upset another driver, it’s important to defuse the situation as soon as possible” by showing remorse, the company says. Wave to the other driver, “mouthing that you’re sorry, allowing plenty of room for (the car) to pass you,” the company says. Conversely, when another driver upsets you, the DMV.org cautions: “Before taking matters into your own hands, think about the consequences of your actions (if) you contemplate exacting revenge on the other driver.”
Sadly, showing remorse for a transgression on a highway did not prevent Julie Eberly from losing her life. Nevertheless, “being the bigger person” in a road rage situation is an advancement of civilization in modern times.