This occurs when a perpetrator intentionally directs a motor vehicle at a target with the intent of inflicting fatal injuries or major property damage by striking with concussive force, according to the US Department of Homeland Security. It’s a dilemma for cities, law enforcement, and automobile manufacturers.
There’s nothing to suggest that this week’s attack was a deliberate act of domestic terrorism. However, it raises the issue of what happens when a vehicle hits a group of people on impact — deliberate or otherwise.
But the issue remains — whatever the motive and the cause, vehicles are crashing into pedestrians at high speed, and it’s not only a problem in terms of criminality, but also safety.
It could be the man who has a heart attack at the wheel and rams into a crowd of people (happened opposite my local supermarket). Or what I classify as general fuckwit driving. Or someone following their sat-nav voice commands a little too closely.
The mainstreaming of a very specific type of crime – automobile ramming — has occurred in the previous few decades.
When a guy driving a speeding automobile crashed into a Christmas parade in Milwaukee, killing five people and injured 48 more, it was front and centre in many people’s minds this week.
The long criminality of vehicle ramming
Whether it’s a car or a truck driving through a parade, a protest, or a shopping precinct, vehicle ramming is a low-tech attack designed to cause havoc, fear, and serious injury.
Vehicle ramming has been used by extremist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda in cities like London, Antwerp, Nice, Ohio, Barcelona, and Berlin, where cars and trucks were used as weapons, charging at pedestrians in crowded civilian areas. It’s also been an act of the mentally ill in Melbourne. It would be easy to suggest that vehicle ramming has become popular because terrorists can’t easily hack a plane anymore, but it’s more complicated than that.
While vehicle ramming has a pretty long history, it’s accelerated (excuse the pun) over the last decade. In particular, vehicle ramming has been deployed in the US against protestors over the last few years. This includes attacks aimed at Black Lives Matter protests. For example, from the day of George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020, to September 30, 2021, vehicles drove into separate protest events at least 139 times, according to a Boston Globe analysis.
Is vehicle ramming a crime? In the US, five states — Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Tennessee — have either shielded drivers who kill pedestrians from legal action or have fully decriminalized hitting a pedestrian with a vehicle if they were in the street or on a highway.
If you’re looking for a way to cause havoc without even needing a gun, vehicle ramming is for you. Heck, you don’t even need much planning, you just need to hire a car or truck or fill your own vehicle with gas. You don’t even need to be a good driver. The problem of truck ramming
An easy way to cause havoc The laws grant drivers criminal and civil immunity if they “unintentionally” hit or kill a protester while “fleeing from a riot,” so long as they say it was necessary to protect themselves.