Citizen reporting of bad driving: What could possibly go wrong?

Anyone driving slower than me is an idiot.
Anyone driving faster than me is a jerk.

The preceding observation is perhaps the best reason that the proposal to create a 24-hour hotline that allows Texans to report bad drivers is a bad idea. I fear that many of us lack the objectivity and discipline to distinguish dangerous drivers from those who are simply ill-mannered (or whose driving habits just differ from ours).

I doubt that any law enforcement office in the state is adequately staffed to deal with the flood of calls regarding someone’s idea of “dangerous driving,” and I don’t understand how response time could be adequate to deal with a truly dangerous situation. In addition, there’s the possibility for abuse. Your neighbor parked his trash can on your side of the property line? Well, just call him in for “dangerous driving.” How about if the car in front of you is sporting a bumper sticker for the “wrong” college, or the driver is of the “wrong” ethnic group? Without some accountability built into the process, those things alone could lead someone to file a report.

Then there’s the subjective assessment of what constitutes “dangerous driving.” The guy who routinely rolls the stop sign at the end of your lightly-traveled cul-de-sac is in technical violation of the law, but is he driving dangerously?

In fairness, according to the above-linked report, this idea seems to have some traction with local law enforcement officials, so I’m obviously missing something. I simply worry that a law like this shifts the ability to be a jerk and/or an idiot from the steering wheel to the cell phone.


  1. Here in the self-described center of the world, the saying goes:
    “Everyone who drives slower than me is holding up traffic and should pull over.
    Everyone who drives faster than me is endangering society and should be arrested.”

  2. You mean, you have less patience while driving?
    I think I’m just the opposite. I’m mellowing out, for whatever reason. I still note bad driving, and I see a lot of it, but I don’t think I react as vigorously as I once did. Of course, Debbie might have a different perspective.

  3. One other thing, that sort of supports what you said. As I get older, I tend to put examples of bad driving into the category of “do they know how much they’re putting other people in danger?” instead of just directing anger directly at the driver. I don’t know if that’s a meaningful distinction or not.

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