Complaints Anonymous - A Traffic Violator Database Proposal
I never know what I will find when I check the DriveSmartBC e-mail in-box. Today’s gem came from someone who identifies themself as Grumpy and suggested that they were thinking that maybe I could use the web site to contain a database such that when a bad driver is witnessed, the public could enter the details of the driving offence. No personal information need be provided.
The writer went on to say that the main benefit of the database is that we could keep a count of the number of offences for a particular driver. If say, a license plate gets reported 3 or more times then the police could/should automatically investigate this person.
In a perfect world, the only entries in this database would be honest ones. No one would ever think of causing problems for another by flooding it with malicious information, misinterpretation of an event or insufficient detail.
A vehicle’s licence plate only serves to identify who owns the vehicle, not who was driving at a specific time. Yes, the owner must take reasonable steps to identify the driver when police notify them that the vehicle has been involved in a contravention but would you be able to report who was driving your vehicle at a particular time 6 months ago?
It’s the “no personal information need be provided” part that causes me the most concern. That says to me “I’m not willing to be accountable for the information that I am providing.” I think that with a little more thought, Grumpy would also not be willing to accept being the focus of an investigation under this system.
There is a database almost like this implemented in British Columbia right now. It’s called PRIME, the Police Records Information Management Environment. I’m guessing that Grumpy’s difficulty is that every time you try and add a record, you are asked for your name, address, birth date and telephone number by the complaint taker. Many people truly are reluctant to provide this information. At this point, I got the impression that many of them just wanted the police to wave their magic baton and have the problem go away.
It doesn’t work that way. If you want to solve the problem, you have to be a part of that solution.
Unfortunately, even when you are ready, willing and able to participate, the outcome could be less than what you are hoping for. Sometimes it can be much less. Perhaps this is why Grumpy is proposing an alternative system.
Having said that, I always found that the driving complaints that I chose to prosecute in traffic court resulted in a conviction. It had little to do with my skill as a prosecutor and everything to do with the citizen who reported the incident and was willing to see it through to a conclusion. That will was reinforced by what was usually significantly bad driving behaviour on the part of the accused.
Some drivers deserve to be held accountable for what they do when traffic law enforcement personnel are not around to discover and deal with them. If you are involved and feel strongly that action needs to be taken, make the report and follow up. If you don’t try, you won’t be successful.