FAQ: Reporting "Dangerous Drivers"
What do you do when you see a dangerous driver? Legally, there is no obligation to report someone who is driving dangerously. Although it may seem like a waste of time to report something to our clogged and at times unresponsive emergency system, I'd like to encourage you to consider calling 9-1-1 if you see a driver acting dangerously or erratically.
What is a "dangerous driver"?
People make mistakes when they're driving. They cut people off. They fail to signal a last minute turn. To be clear, I'm not asking you to call 9-1-1 every time you see someone driving 57 in a 55 mph zone. When I talk about dangerous drivers, I'm talking about drivers that pose an imminent threat to people or property. If you see a vehicle driving aggressively or recklessly, in a sustained manner, and fear that they may cause harm to others, call 9-1-1 and report what you see.
What information should you share?
It's best to have as much information as possible, including:
Vehicle Information - Make, model, license plate
Description of Driver - Cars and trucks can't be charged with crimes. Noting the physical characteristics of the driver is important information.
Location - Where did you see the dangerous driver, and which direction were they headed
Description of Behavior - It's best if you can give a detailed description of how the driver was behaving, what specific actions they were taking, and how they pose an imminent threat to others.
A picture is worth a thousand words - If you can safely take a video or picture of the situation, it may be useful in subsequent investigations.
Real Life Implications
In 2019 I represented a teenager who had been hit by a BMW driver in SE Portland. Prior to the collision, the BMW had been driving aggressively on Highway 99, along Holgate Blvd., and through the neighborhood of Creston-Kenilworth. TWO separate individuals, having scary interactions with the BMW called 9-1-1 to report his dangerous driving. Unfortunately, emergency response times are not instantaneous, and the driver struck a teenage skateboarder when the driver cut a corner too sharp. While the 9-1-1 calls were not able to prevent the crash from happening, these emergency reports were still valuable for justice. During the investigation phase of the case, I was able to find these callers and they willingly testified during the civil trial. These two independent witnesses painted a picture of a callous and aggressive driver, who was making dangerous maneuvers through a residential area, in the minutes before hitting a pedestrian. Because of their testimony, the jury saw my client as more credible, and the issue of liability or "who was at fault" was much less of a question. Final advice: When it comes to dangerous drivers, use your best judgment. Remember to be safe and protect yourself, but also do what you can to protect others.
News from the Oregonian: "Portland traffic deaths highest in 3 decades as officials report spike in reckless driving"
Related Blog Post: FAQ: Medically Unsafe Drivers
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