Physician Jozef Piri, MD, is pleading not guilty to a second-degree murder charge in the 2019 shooting death of Roberto Fonseca-Rivera.
In January 2024, the victim’s widow filed a wrongful death suit against Dr. Piri, seeking damages for medical bills, funeral costs, and “pain and suffering.”
The highway shooting is alleged to be an incident of road rage—unsurprisingly in the US, firearms are estimated to be involved in almost 40% of all road rage incidents in the country.
In December 2021, internal medicine physician Jozef Piri, MD, was charged with second-degree murder in an apparent road rage incident. The case for the 2019 shooting death of truck driver Roberto Fonseca-Rivera is expected to go to trial sometime in 2024.
Now, Fonseca-Rivera’s widow, Xiomarra Morales-Arrufat, is filing a wrongful death suit against Dr. Piri. The suit, filed in January 2024, seeks damages for medical bills and funeral costs and non-monetary damages for pain and suffering.
When road rage turns lethal
Numerous questions still surround the shooting that took place on a Vermont highway on November 1, 2019.
Dr. Piri is the only suspect in the incident—highway cameras from that afternoon show Dr. Piri’s gray pickup truck driving ahead of Fonseca-Rivera’s delivery truck around the time of the shooting.
Fonseca-Rivera was on the phone with a friend when he was shot. According to the friend, Fonseca-Rivera complained that the driver in front of him was repeatedly speeding up and slowing down. The friend told Fonseca-Rivera to honk at the driver, and a few moments later, he heard Fonseca-Rivera inhale deeply before dropping the phone.
Speaking in defense of Dr. Piri, attorney John Amabile stated, "The idea that he would just decide to gun down somebody that he doesn’t even know, that sounds preposterous, frankly."
The prevalence of road rage
Road rage, along with aggressive driving, is a common problem. In 2023, 92% of Americans reported witnessing at least one incident of road rage in the past year, and 89% reported that they have been the target of road rage.
Studies into road rage show that drivers are most frustrated on Mondays and Fridays and in the afternoon, suggesting that heavy traffic is a factor in road rage incidents. Additional reported factors include running late, feeling tired, and already feeling stressed or angry. It’s also been suggested that the anonymity of being on the road plays a factor in aggressive behavior.
Studies have shown that road rage can be provoked when perceived safety and control on the road is challenged. People sometimes believe, consciously or subconsciously, that they are a better driver than those around them. They then take aggressive driving actions in an attempt to control the situation.
As a 2018 study into road rage states, “The perception that the others’ driving skills are deficient and the illusion of one’s superiority can determine a driver to engage in aggressive behaviors.”
MD in legal trouble
A native of Romania, Dr. Piri studied medicine in Hungary and is licensed to practice medicine in the state of Florida. Records show no disciplinary action or malpractice cases associated with Dr. Piri. In 2020, Dr. Piri and his wife, who is also a physician, along with their two children, moved to Florida. It was later that year that he was charged with second-degree murder, but he has since been released on bail to await trial.
No one is safe from feelings of road rage, which is why it’s important to find health ways to manage anger and aggression when behind the wheel.
Participants in the Reducing Aggressive Driving (RAD) program study, which is based in Australia, came up with 38 solutions to address road rage. Some of their strategies include:
Pulling over or stopping the car when your temper rises
Deep breathing and other road-safe mindfulness practices
Listening to music or podcasts
“Personalize” the other driver by imagining it’s someone you know, like your parent or child
Swear or vent out loud to reduce feelings of anger
What this means for you
Florida doctor Jozef Piri, MD, is pleading not guilty to a second-degree murder charge in the 2019 shooting death of Roberto Fonseca-Rivera. The shooting was allegedly part of a road rage incident, signaling that no one is safe from the potentially lethal consequences of allowing yourself to drive while angry or frustrated. Dr. Piri is the only suspect in the case. He was released on bail and is currently awaiting trial, expected sometime in 2024.