Can someone track me down from my license plates?
May 31, 2008 2:19 PM   Subscribe

I got into a serious road rage incident with another driver, who turned out to be quite an angry guy. Do you think I should be worried about vengeful repercussions?

Just as I was hitting highway speed and running out of road in the merge lane, another driver came speeding down the right lane and cut me off... he could have put me in a ditch. I lost it a little and flashed the finger as he passed me.

Here's where he goes ballistic - he gets in front of me and comes to a full and complete stop on the highway, cursing me out of his driver's side window. He takes off. I pass him, and he is yelling, calling us "bitches", et cetera.

I thought I heard him say something about running my plates. He had out of state plates and appeared to be the farthest thing from a cop. But who knows who this guy is, or who he knows? Maybe I was hearing things, but should I be worried he might do that? I have a pretty good imagination, and I am having visions of this person showing up on my parents' doorstep (to whom the car is registered).

Am I paranoid? Can someone do that?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't worry about it. I don't believe it's illegal to flip someone off.
posted by rhizome at 2:28 PM on May 31, 2008

Yes, it can be done. Whether this guy can do it, or whether he'll remember to, is not so certain. People with hair-trigger tempers have long lists of people who piss them off, and haven't got time to visit all the revenge they claim they will. I'd tell your parents to watch out for trouble, have a drink, and let yourself let it go until further notice.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:30 PM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Can someone track you down from your license plate? Yes, for a price. It'd take more effort than I'd expect from a road rage fallout however.

He was probably just trying to scare you (and succeeded somewhat).

Unfortunately, there's not a lot you can do at this point other than worry about it, which would be a waste of time, ultimately.

posted by Busithoth at 2:34 PM on May 31, 2008

I thought I heard him say something about running my plates.

The chances are vanishingly small that this guy is crazy enough to run your plates and show up at your doorstep or take other vengeful action, all over a little traffic irritation.

Even rock-bottom losers have better things to do with their time.

I wouldn't worry about it if I were you.
posted by jayder at 2:40 PM on May 31, 2008

Someone I flipped off--who was treating a crowded parking lot like a racetrack--took down my license plate and reported my car as being an emissions violation...which it was NOT. I should have gotten his to report the fraud. This was in Burbank about ten years ago.

I've also learned that it is not prudent to honk at thugs who are crossing against the light.
posted by brujita at 2:58 PM on May 31, 2008

It seems that drivers like him, who are so ruled by their emotions that they act like a petulant child who can't eat ice cream for breakfast if they can't own the road, are generally to shallow to remember to stay angry at any one specific human for longer than an average sound bite lasts.
posted by dawson at 3:00 PM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

I use all the time to do license plate lookups. It costs about 5 cents a search. They don't have every state available though, just Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin
posted by lockle at 3:12 PM on May 31, 2008 [3 favorites]

[a few comments removed - some constructive criticism might be okay name-calling definitely isn't]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:14 PM on May 31, 2008 [2 favorites]

Crazy guys are crazy. And crazy people are capable of anything.

Proceed with caution, but don't live in fear. Guy has probably since had road rage incidents with other people and has forgotten about you.
posted by wfrgms at 3:14 PM on May 31, 2008

It might ease your mind to check with your state's motor vehicle registration department on how public your registration information is. Some states give it all up to anyone who asks, others, such as California have reasonably strict DMV privacy laws and do not distribute home addresses to the average schmuck.
posted by jamaro at 3:47 PM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

He's probably cooled off by now. Moreover, he probably knew he was at fault and was protecting himself by intimidating you. I doubt you'll ever hear from him again.
posted by katillathehun at 3:53 PM on May 31, 2008

If he got that upset because of this, then he's probably gotten even more upset at something more recent or something worse. This driver most likely is all talk. Don't worry about it.
posted by toaster at 4:21 PM on May 31, 2008

Speaking as a former insurance agent, cops aren't the only ones with access to that kind of information. Speaking as the mother of a teenager, please make every effort not to engage crazy people. Once he took off, it may have been best to let him alone.

If he was far from home and driving like a maniac, you were probably just one on a long list of people who flipped him off. Chances are good that you don't have anything to worry about.
posted by contrariwise at 4:34 PM on May 31, 2008

You really shouldn't stress about this. Irrational, abusive people extract power from threatening or intimidating other people. The guy probably forgot any details about you or your companions as soon as the buzz subsided, and the incident just merged into the larger body of road rage incidents he's used to leverage his impotence into self-importance.

If you let this guy get to you, the psychic terrorists are winning.
posted by baphomet at 4:35 PM on May 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yes, they can do this if they really, really want to. It's not that hard anymore. Yes, if this had happened to me I would be a little nervous. It's normal to feel nervous, but just like everyone else here has said, the chances of something happening are pretty small.

For what it's worth, you should probably take this as a lesson and not do something like this again. Many years ago, while waiting at a red light, this older man suddenly pulled his car to the left of mine. He was screaming his head off. I don't know what I did and I couldn't hear him because he didn't roll down his windows. He continued to yell as he maneuvered his car around mine to pull away. Just as he was about to hit his accelerator I flipped him off. I swear, the guy's eyes turned red.

Just then my light turned green. I proceeded, turning away from the direction he had turned. (The direction I needed to go.) He went up the road, turned around and began to follow me. For nine miles. I shudder to think what would have happened if I was on my way home or a few blocks from my destination. At the time, I was headed out-of-state.

I've never flipped anyone off again. There's really no point to it. Few people would react to an insult by saying, "Yeah, you're right, I screwed up." A car has a way of making you feel invulnerable. You're not.

Nah, I don't think it's worth it, especially if getting that last word in could make it your last Last Word.
posted by tcv at 4:50 PM on May 31, 2008

[a few comments removed - question is not "do I need a gun for self-defense" please take derails to email or metatalk, thanks]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:27 PM on May 31, 2008

He isn't gonna do sh!t IMHO. Don't worry about it.
posted by citron at 5:52 PM on May 31, 2008

You've got nothing to worry about. He would have been humiliated if he hadn't done anything after you flipped him off.

By stopping and threatening you and having you not really respond, he put you back in your place, and reaffirmed his place in his own world. He'll be content with that.
posted by jamjam at 6:08 PM on May 31, 2008

Somebody who is angry and threatening from the safety of his car is not likely to actually write down your plate #, look it up, and stalk you. But take it as an opportunity to make sure 911 is in your speed dial, and review your personal safety.
posted by theora55 at 7:33 PM on May 31, 2008

It might be worth reporting to the police - I've had someone threaten to "get me" (in a similar I-know-where-you-live kind of way) after a traffic incident. I mentioned it to the police, they rang the guy, told him to calm the fuck down, and that was that.

And if he does start harassing you, you've already laid the groundwork for the cops to treat it seriously and take appropriate measures.
posted by rodgerd at 9:07 PM on May 31, 2008

Somebody who is angry and threatening from the safety of his car is not likely to actually write down your plate #, look it up, and stalk you.

Case in point: A few years ago a friend and I were on our bicycles at an intersection here in Chicago waiting on the light to change. A crazy guy pulled up behind us and laid on his horn while shouting something about getting out of his way, he had a right, etc.

I got up real close to his window and said as deadly serious as I could muster, "Why don't you get out of the car and we'll talk about it..." He instantly shut up and drove away.

He could of just as easily rolled down his window and shot me. I don't recommend that to everyone...

posted by wfrgms at 10:28 PM on May 31, 2008

I agree that, by the time he reached his destination, he'd probably pissed off (and been pissed by) countless other drivers and other things. I seriously doubt he'd follow through.

I can relate to your discomfort, though. Like brujita, I too once flipped off a driver who was racing around a parking lot and nearly collided with my car. I was with a friend, we were laughing and being stupid, and thought nothing of it as I pulled into a parking space. Well, the driver was extremely angry and actually returned to the parking lot (he was on his way out when I made my gesture) and sped over to scream at and threaten us. He went on his way after threatening to break my finger off and feed it to me, but I was definitely shaken up.

(I wish I could say I've kept my fingers to myself since then, but I have slipped a few times, thankfully with less violent results.)
posted by justonegirl at 6:17 AM on June 1, 2008

Did you see him writing down your plate number? If not, do you really think he'll be able to remember it even five minutes after he cools down?

I'd say you have nothing to worry about.
posted by AV at 7:49 AM on June 1, 2008

I hear stuff like this directed at me literally every day and I'm still here.
posted by dagnyscott at 8:11 AM on June 1, 2008

Am I missing something? Really? Someone goes ballistic 'cause someone else flips them the bird? They actually pursue and verbally accost/threaten someone?

This seems patently insane. Aside from all the issue of "is he going to run my plates" - here, I think Countess Elena and baphomet are right on - I'm really having a difficult time understanding this. If someone gives me the finger, and it's happened once or twice, I just mutter "yeah, yeah, you <string of colorful expletives>" and return the favor. Am I living in la-la land here? Seriously: wtf?
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 8:30 AM on June 1, 2008

I wouldn't worry about this guy. Your interaction was relatively mild, and I'm sure he'll have two or three more like that over the next week. I doubt you'll stand out. Think about it. How many times has someone made a gesture at you in your life?

I do think before I flick people a bird, though. I'm an above average, and fairly polite driver, but I still get the finger every month or so. I don't really let it get to me, but I've had a few instances where my co-pilot has instigated pretty hostile exchanges. It's not so bad downtown, but when I take the freeway through the suburbs I'm amazed at how many potentially lethal maniacs there are on the roads.

I'm so glad I don't have to drive to work.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 12:00 PM on June 1, 2008

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