Should Bad Drivers be Shamed Publicly?

Caution, Idiot Driver on BoardDeliberately bad drivers seem to be appearing more and more often on our highways. If e-mail to the DriveSmartBC web site is any indication, other drivers are no longer shrugging it off and report offenders in the hope that they will be held accountable. Some, including myself, have taken to posting photos or video of selfish, inconsiderate or dangerous drivers in that hope that public shaming might improve that driver's behaviour.

Visit your favourite search engine and enter bad drivers of Vancouver or bad parkers of Kelowna and you will find all sorts of examples of driving or parking that make you wonder why these people still hold valid BC driver's licences. Probably some of them do not.

Do any of these bad drivers ever see themselves on the internet? I've only had one instance where a woman named as the driver responsible for a collision in case law that I posted ask to have her name removed from DriveSmartBC. As it was a published BC Supreme Court judgment I explained and refused. Nothing further was said.

Shame is a very powerful emotion that can drive personal change. It is also a useful tool to encourage others to conform to societal norms. Is it morally justifiable? If you have no other means to counter people choosing to put your life and health at risk, perhaps it is.

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If a person's driving skill is so low that you wonder how they got their license, the shame properly belongs to ICBC.  Driver skill level is declining rapidly, and ICBC is mandated to oversee driver competence.  If driver competence is declining ICBC is failing in that task.

I've made this comment before in other contexts.  People from other jurisdictions do not (as far as I know anyway) need to take a road test to demonstrate competence.  Why not?

The graduated licencing program seems (to me at least) to have made somewhat of a difference, but even so, a person can get their "N" and drive on the freeway without ever demonstrating that they can.

Perhaps all drivers need to take a refresher ever 3 renewals.  At their own expense, too (myself included :) )

At the very least certain driving offenses should include an order to take driving lessons or to "show cause why your license should not be revoked"  -- in other words, prove competence.

The problem with shame as a tactic is that shame by its very nature is a form of bullying.  Assuming a person rectifies the condition that resulted in a public shaming, they will never be able to remove the stigma. 

All the best,



In reply to by burcam

I've commented previously on these issues, ideas, statements et cetera.

So, briefly, you can't blame ICBC.  Why not?

  • People from other juridictions who are able to exchange their out of province or out of country license for a BC license without more than a cursory knowledge test will most certainly have been required to pass a somewhat equivalent test previously in another jurisdiction; it may well have been a tougher road test than ICBC administers.
  • The graduated licensing program has indeed made a difference, more subtle than is obvious from what you see around you in traffic, in terms of reducing risk for learner and novice drivers.
  • Yes, a person can indeed qualify for their Class 7 N without demonstrating freeway competence.  But that has always been the case in BC since the dawn of time (being able to obtain a license to drive unaccompanied without a supervisor).  However, ICBC introduced the requirement for both Class 7 drivers and all others from non-reciprocal jurisdictions to demonstrate freeway proficiency in order to obtain a Class 5 license, setting a new higher standard than existed previously.  For comparison purposes, consdider the UK, where you're not allowed on the motorway as a learner, even with an instructor; only after you've obtained your license (even though you still may not have a clue).
  • Certain driving offenses - such as those under Section 144 - will, essentially, ensure that the judge and/or licensing authority will take a hard look at why severe penalties (including suspension or prohibition) should not be applied.  Same thing if the driver acquires a considerable number of penalty points over a given period.
  • The idea that forcing remedial instruction on drivers every three years or whatever will result in any noticeable change in behaviour is doubtful; when each driver obtains his/her license, they demonstrate - at that time - an ability to operate a motor vehicle within the rules set and criteria required.  But nothing can guarantee that this is how they will continue in the future!  The fact is that pretty much every driver who seeks advanced training is already motivated to drive better; unfortunately, the crap drivers don't seek further training, and forcing it on them isn't going to change anything.

Meanwhile, when it comes to the shaming thing, my thoughts are these.  On the one hand, what people do in the privacy of their own home or bordello or whatever is surely their own business so long as they're not harming anyone else or putting them at risk. 

But public highways are exactly that - public - and how drivers conduct themselves behind the wheel is everybody's business, surely?  If a car with such and such a license plate drove through a stop sign at such and such an intersection on such and such a date at such and such a time, that's a matter of fact.  These days, with the proliferation of both dash cams and street cams, little is private.

So I don't see this as shaming - ya did what ya did with all these other road users watching anyway - and would hope that it improves everybody's awareness and behaviour in future when they're behind the wheel.

In my opinion shaming is the wrong approach for all the mentioned reasons. Leniency and light punishment, or warnings doesn’t work either.

As for immigrants obtaining BC Driver’s licenses on the strength of our reciprocal agreements with other countries. Some of those drives come from countries that have extremely stringent licensing/testing requirements in some cases better than ours.  In other jurisdictions that are reciprocal with BC/Canada they have testing equivalent to obtaining a fishing license (when’s the last time you had to take a “fishing test” to get a fishing license ?)

Ironically the worst jurisdictions for testing requirements are also the jurisdictions with virtually no means for ICBC’s Special Investigation Unit officers to reliably, independently, confirm validity of the licenses presented.

In this day of micro circuits a miniaturized this and that, surly it would be easy and efficient to equip a fleet of "plain Jane" vehicles with numerous cameras to capture driving evidence on video for presentation in court. For decades police administrators have pushed the “we have to be highly visible”, “the sight of a police car, emergency lights going, with a police officer dealing with a motorist, reminds all motorists to obey the law”, etc etc.

That’s all well and good, but when the police resources are stretched and there are no police out writing tickets, the “high visibility” doesn’t work, does it ?

These covert traffic enforcement operations enabled by the creation of a small fleet of specialized vehicles could perhaps move throughout the province much like bait vehicles do. There would be some outrage and some approval by the public.  Both solve another goal, public awareness.

I haven’t worked out the details but perhaps to resolve the issue of identity of the driver, a marked police unit could be utilized in conjunction with the covert traffic car to actually stop the suspect vehicle and provide that segment of the essential elements of the charge. It likely would be unwise to use the covert vehicle to pull vehicles over, both because of safety and to retain anonymity.

Criteria would need to be established that the target of such operations would be, aggressive multi violation drivers…. You know the type that tailgate a vehicle that is legally responsibly passing a slower vehicle, who tailgates, then before the law abiding driver can return to the right lane, cuts around, not signals, then cuts off the law abiding driver and speeds off at light speed.

I liked the idea of a “show cause” for chronic offenders to explain why they should reacquire a driver’s license. Also graduated penalties with probation notification and severe monetary and lengthy suspensions for chronic offenders.

A very real issue with encouraging public shaming is that our assessment of each other's driving is so subjective.  Someone's driving may annoy me (slow, erratic etc.) but not necessarily be illegal.  As George Carlin once said, "here's how most folks think about other people's driving.  Anyone going slower than me is an idiot, and anyone driving faster than me is a maniac!"

Yes, there will be some clearly illegal driving caught on video, but I fear any such system of public shaming will be overwhemed with uninformative videos of behavior that some folks simply don't approve of, and not very useful to the overall objective of making all of us better drivers.  

The real issue is that ICBC still licenses incompetent drivers who don't grasp how important the act of driving actually is, and the provincial government responds by enacting ever-harsher penalties for driving infractions rather than making the process of earning a driving license more rigorous in the first place.

Drive in western Europe for a while and one sees the benefit of proper driver licensing.  Yes they generally drive faster than we do in North America, but their accident rates are significantly lower as well.  Our licensing programs are woefully inadequate.

These 'bad drivers' most of the time do not see themselves as a cause of the problem and public shaming won't' do anything. I think the root of the increasing numbers is that the driving examiners have become lenient and grant these 'bad drivers' their license when they shouldn't. I am around a lot of N drivers and see the errors they pull and wonder how they ever got their licenses. If they are doing this while they are an "N" and have problems in their exam then hold off giving them their full license. Just my thoughts.

I don't like to tackle someone else in a personal discussion - even if they do elect to be 'Anonymous' - but in this case I have to.  Because, you're just plain wrong.

 I think the root of the increasing numbers is that the driving examiners have become lenient and grant these 'bad drivers' their license when they shouldn't. I am around a lot of N drivers and see the errors they pull and wonder how they ever got their licenses. If they are doing this while they are an "N" and have problems in their exam then hold off giving them their full license. Just my thoughts.

On what basis do you think that DE's have become more lenient?

The fact is, since ICBC (that mega-insurance company which also happens to be our licensing authority) have been steadily raising the bar since they assumed the latter responsibility.

Lenient examiners?  The marking criteria has become ever less subjective, and more demanding, since ICBC took over.  Can't blame them, being as it's in their best interests to have safer more competent drivers out there.

And it may interest you to know that every Driver Examiner's pass/fail rate is tracked, and recorded, with the results presented to them each month.  Those who are consistently passing - or failing - signifcantly more drivers than the average will be asked to account for this anomaly.  As for the behaviour you see with 'N' drivers - well, do you think it's possible that young, inexperienced, novice drivers may actually drive in a different fashion than when they were on their Road Test?  Think about this for a moment.

Consider that maybe they're just easier to identify these days, due to that 'N' on the back of the car ... and perhaps also because the older we get, the less adult they appear to us.

Understand this, now.  Any driver - and this may particularly apply to teenagers - who breaks the rules, or pushes the margins of safety, during their Road Test will fail and go home with the 'L' they showed up with.

Although different individual DE's may vary in the way they mark Road Tests - this is inevitable, given that they're human beings rather than robots - none of them have any reason to pass anybody.

So for heaven's sake, would you all quit trying to blame the performance of the drivers around you on the DE who tested them?  Sheesh.


What guarantees do we have that someone who can "suck it up" and demonstrate their ability to follow the rules and guide a vehicle correctly during a 30 minute driving test is going to do same when being un-monitored ?

Yes, we need to detect the incompetant new driver, but really how many of our major crashes are cause by that type of driver, verses the aggressive, law ignoring driver.

We've all seen the TV programs where people are monitored without their knowledge.

The child who has been told over and over not to talk to strangers, is approached by an actor looking for a lost puppy, the parent "knows" their child won't fall for the deception and away the child goes with the stranger.

The "responsible" young driver given the family car to go with a friend, all the while being monitored with a hidden camera.  The parent "my child is mature they are a good driver they don't ...." then we see the crazy driving captured by the hidden camera.

All the testing and training in the world doesn't stop an immature or irresponsible person from driving like a fool.

A system of checks and balances, and the risk of being monitored by same and strict follow-up by a system that addresses such poor driving behavior is the solution.

I don't give much credit to a system for which, speeding = $XXX, disobeying a signal = $XXX.

Are we not just saying "if you happen to get caught you can pay your way out of trouble with money".

The new laws directed at the prohibition of the use of hand held electronic devices is a great example of some drivers completely ignoring a law.  It doesn't seem to matter how much police attention the offense receives.

We have a graduated licensing system, we have ICBC with a graduated surcharge for claims (Claims Rated Scale), how about a graduated penalty system.

Perhaps in the "dark ages" the technology was not available to monitor is an efficient and timely manner, the violation history of a driver.  With todays computer systems we can.

The first few violations, a gradual increase in fines, then prohibitions, then mandatory driver re-training addressing the consequences of aggresive driving.  If that still doesn't work, indefinate suspensions tied to show cause hearings.

The graduated penalties of course supported by a fleet of covert traffic monitoring vehicles.