Reporting bad/dangerous drivers
April 20, 2008 8:40 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way to report dangerous driving that you see on the road? e.g. speeding, weaving in and out of lanes.. or just wait and hope the police catch up with them eventually? If I have a reason to believe this bad driver is going to cause an accident - is there a way to report them? I live in the Chicago suburbs.
posted by Workingtill85 to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In California, is you phone 911 from a cell while on the road it routes the call to the California Highway Patrol, so using that method is encouraged out here. Do you have something similar in Illinois?
posted by Asherah at 8:44 PM on April 20, 2008

Can you get a tag number? I'm no fan of the cops, but I figure this is one job they should handle. On a number of occasions I've called non-emergency on a cell phone and reported a driver, sometimes just by describing the vehicle. The police have always seem interested and thorough have been unfailingly helpful. If nothing else it's saved me from my own road rage. Of course one could just do this to someone they don't like, but I doubt anyone gets stopped unless they are actually observed driving recklessly.
posted by dawson at 8:47 PM on April 20, 2008

I call 9-1-1 and report the car and the plate. I usually say that I'm not sure if the person is altered, under the influence or suffering from an illness that is interfering with their driving. If they are aggressive, I say what makes me think that, but also say that it's possible that something has happened to make them start acting that way. The police previously indicated that sometimes people call in innocent cars, just to get revenge on an ex or whatever.

The last two times I made calls, the police definitely went after the guy. (Not sure about previous times.) They seemed to take it seriously. In fact, last year, they phoned me to tell me that the guy was a known drunk, but that he'd gone into his house as soon as they'd caught up. So they were doing an APB to look for the guy if he got back into the car. (They were concerned that my ID would be thrown out of court, since the guy would claim he slugged back a bottle after he went into the house.)
posted by acoutu at 9:09 PM on April 20, 2008

Thanks for your answers. I will have to put at least the non-emergency police number on my cell phone. You have a good point that it might save me from my road rage.. and might save some lives out there as well.
posted by Workingtill85 at 9:16 PM on April 20, 2008

I remember going through a drive through with my mom when I was younger and observing a ridiculously drunk man ordering ahead of us. We were going the same direction and noticed him swerving all over the road and call 911. They were really nice and seemed concerned, no idea what actually happened though. However, this was in a pretty small town, where I'm guessing the police don't have much to do.
posted by whoaali at 9:48 PM on April 20, 2008

In NJ you can report aggressive drivers with #77. I am not much of a narc so you would probably have to put my life in danger for me to report you that way. However, if you are drunk, I am going straight to 911, and I think I have tagged a few folks this way, and we are not talking 0.08, but more like 0.28.
posted by caddis at 9:59 PM on April 20, 2008

seconding Ashreah. In Cali we are indeed encouraged to call 911 to report erratic/possibly drunk, or aggressive drivers. I can't imagine you can't do the same. I mean, the person you are reporting is, at that moment, a threat to other drivers on the road.
posted by special-k at 10:16 PM on April 20, 2008

Definitely call 911 while you are on the road, and describe where they are at and what they are doing.
Last year for a forensic psych class I had to observe a certain number of courtroom hours, felony charges. One of the trials I observed began with a concerned driver on the freeway making a 911 call. The person they were calling about was weaving over four lanes of traffic in a construction zone. Turned out the person was tweaked out something awful on meth, had been up for days, and still had more meth on their person. Of course, he just claimed he was sleepy, and he didn't know how the meth got in his pocket. Right...
So, definitely make the call! You could get some real results... might even get to be a witness at a trial! Fun!
posted by KoobieKitten at 10:50 PM on April 20, 2008

Just curious, if 911 calls from the road are automatically routed to CHP, how is it they know you are .. uh .. on the road??
posted by 5bux at 11:57 PM on April 20, 2008

The dispatcher doesn't know if you are driving unless you explicitly tell them. All 911 calls made from a cellular phone go to the CHP. Per that link: Unlike landline 911, the dispatcher cannot identify the cellular phone number of the location of the cellular phone. Be prepared to provide the dispatcher with your location and the exact location of the emergency.
posted by Asherah at 12:57 AM on April 21, 2008

yeah, I've never called in Cali, but the dispatcher always asks where you currently are and where, last seen, the idiot driver was. The last time I called the guy had literally run me off the road, and the cop suggested I pull over and then she chatted till I was calm and a few cruisers came racing by. For a moment I adored cops.
posted by dawson at 1:43 AM on April 21, 2008

I'm in the Chicago area, and I always call 911 if it's safe for me to do so (i.e. the traffic is light enough that I won't endanger others while on the phone). I do call while driving, because I want to keep up with the erratic driver so I can provide info. (But slimepuppy's warning is still a good one.)

The dispatcher asks where I am and where the car in question is (I try to notice a mile marker, or the closest exit if I'm on an expressway). They've asked why I believe this driver may be impaired. (I think they make an attempt to weed out people calling the cops on someone who cut them off, etc.) I try to be somewhat descriptive, like "Well, I noticed that she was smoking out of the bottom of a soda can with both hands, while driving 60mph with her kneecaps" or "The car is driving excessively slow in the left lane and braking for no apparent reason" (a classic sign of someone driving drunk). Both of these have happened to me in the last few months and dammit, it pisses me off that people can be so irresponsible. Some nights I lie awake worrying that the driver in question will hunt me down for getting them in trouble, but then I flash on to pictures of innocent people who have been killed by drunk drivers, and I can sleep.

Definitely call 911. You'll get routed to the appropriate place, eventually. But try to be clear on location, and you think this driver is worth a look-see by police.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:35 AM on April 21, 2008

The 911 center in Chicago has your number no matter the phone service. If you're reporting something like an erratic driver please don't remain anonymous. If you remain anonymous and they need more information from you ASAP there's a delay while the dispatcher gets permission to access the call records.
posted by @homer at 5:48 AM on April 21, 2008

I have called 911 on the roads in California a few times; most recently to report a 100+ MPH lunatic on the freeway. The CHP answers, and they will ask your name once you have detailed the situation. Give it to them.
posted by Brocktoon at 5:54 AM on April 21, 2008

There's also *999, but I agree with using 911. You are reporting a crime in progress, or at least a dangerous situation, and that's what 911 is for.

Don't know how it works exactly, but 911 calls from cell phones can be routed to different places than where you really are. Always say where you are first.

"911, how can I help you?"

"I'm in Oak Lawn, Illinois and I need to report a dangerous driver on Cicero."
posted by gjc at 8:39 AM on April 21, 2008

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