The Police Did Not Take My Driving Complaint Seriously

Ticket WriterThe police did not take my driving complaint seriously, what is my step? I know for a fact my wife and I had the offending vehicle, driver's description and B.C. license number correct. After reporting this incident I received a call from a constable telling me that the plate number I gave them was registered to a Hyundai and not the Pontiac I reported. They told me there was nothing else they could do.

I can respond to this reader's question from both sides of the fence as I have been both an investigator and a dissatisfied complainant with regard to a driving complaint. As an investigator, I can say that having the license plate number reported identify a different vehicle than the type complained about happens fairly regularly.

Most often it is a mistake in reading the plate which can be very difficult now that some B.C. license plates are designed for decoration rather than legibility.

The Licence Plate Does Not Match

If it is not an error reading the licence plate of the offending vehicle, it is most likely to be a stolen licence plate or one that has recently been transferred and the records have not been updated yet. In all of these cases, a telephone call or a visit to the registered owner can clear up any discrepancy.

The information gained from the follow up investigation can either confirm that it is the wrong licence plate number or that the correct licence plate and the wrong vehicle description. With the former, there is nothing further to be done and with the latter appropriate action may be taken.

It Depends on the Investigator

In my recent experience, it is obvious to me that there is a very low priority assigned to driving complaints where a collision has not occurred. The outcome of your complaint depends on whether the investigator assigned to it does a thorough job of the investigation and whether their supervisor allows it to be concluded with only superficial treatment.

If You Have Made a Proper Complaint

If you have made a detailed complaint and are willing to follow it up, there are circumstances where it is not possible for the police to do so, but these should be rare. These reasons should also make sense when the officer contacts you to update you on the outcome of your complaint.

Make sure that you ask for and record the file number of your complaint if you wish to pursue the matter further.

If You Are Not Happy With the Outcome

You can follow up by requesting a copy of your file to see what was done about your complaint. For the RCMP you would use the federal Access to Information and for municipal police forces in BC you would use the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

A formal complaint may be made to the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP or Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner for municipal police.

I recently reported a reckless truck driver to the RCMP, they are writing up a ticket but giving it to the trucking company who is the registered owner of the truck and not the driver. The registered owner indentified the driver but still the Officer said the ticket has to go to the registered owner. Does this sound right to you?

This is was I was originally told - "I spoke with XXXXXXX today and was advised that the driver in question has not been complained about before, so I verbally warned the company (as they would have been the ones to pay as the registered owner of the vehicle). The owner is going to speak with the driver as they don't want to have any further issues."

That was not good enough for me and I insisted I wanted the driver charged and then they told me this "I have written up a ticket and while the driver information was provided to me, the ticket goes to the registered owner of the vehicle. The ticket and file have been forwarded to a supervisor and they will forward it to the town the company's headquarters is in to be served."

After pushing it they did issue a ticket to the registered owner - The ticket issued is for Drive without consideration (MVA 144(1)(b)). Not sure what that means?

When I investigated a driving complaint my first concern was my witness, the complainant. Would they follow through to court if I issued a ticket? Were they able to clearly describe the circumstances of the violation? Were the circumstances such that if I was able to identify the driver, there was a substantial possibility of a conviction? If I could say yes, then I would take a witness statement and start an investigation.

The Motor Vehicle Act allowed me to advise the registered owner of the vehicle of the violation and demand that they identify the driver.

Duty to give information

84  (1) If a peace officer has reason to believe that a motor vehicle has been involved in an accident or in a contravention of this Act, the Commercial Transport Act or the Transportation Act, the regulations under any of these Acts, the bylaws of a municipality or the laws of a treaty first nation, and so informs the owner or a person in the motor vehicle, it is the duty of the owner or person, as the case may be, if required by the peace officer, to give all information it is in his or her power to give relating to the identification of the driver of the motor vehicle at the relevant time or during the relevant period.

If the driver could not be identified, then I had the option of charging the registered owner or owner of the vehicle.

Liability of owner for contravention of Act

83 (2) The owner of a motor vehicle must be held liable for any contravention of

(a) this Act or the regulations,

(b) the Transportation Act or the regulations under it,

(c) the Firearm Act in respect of the carrying or use of firearms in motor vehicles,

(d) the traffic bylaws of a municipality, or

(e) the traffic laws of a treaty first nation.

     (2.1) The owner of a motor vehicle must be held liable for the contravention of a prescribed enactment in relation to parking.

The only way out of this is to show that the vehicle has been stolen or that the person no longer owns the vehicle.

If the driver was identified, I then went to them, explained the circumstances of the complaint, warned them about making an admission and offered them an opportunity to explain the situation from their point of view.

After reviewing all the information, again, if I felt that I could successfully prosecute the ticket, I would issue one to the driver. To me, this is where the responsibility should rest.

You are correct, a ticket issued to the owner or registered owner does not result in penalty points if the ticket is paid or the owner is convicted. A ticket issued to the driver will result in points being assessed if the ticket is paid or the driver is convicted.

This situation seems to indicate that the driver is usually some distance from the place of the offence. It would need a second officer to interview the driver once he or she is identified or to have the driver drop by the detachment for interview on a subsequent trip. Both can be done, but there is some reluctance to involve the second officer unless it is a significant violation. I might infer this to be the case as the charge is one of the more serious under the Motor Vehicle Act.

Careless driving prohibited

144  (1) A person must not drive a motor vehicle on a highway

(b) without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway,

It is also a charge that tends to be more difficult to prove. I have had justices tell me over the years that it is often better to issue a number of tickets for the smaller violations that made up the whole picture than it was to issue this ticket. If the prosecution of 144(1)(b) was not successful, you had nothing, but you could usually convict of some or all of the lesser offences.

To review it all, the choice of what to do does lie with the investigating officer. Since I am not privy to all the circumstances, I can't really comment on why this was the chosen action. No doubt there is a reason for it. All is not lost however, if the ticket is completed properly and either paid or convicted the violation will become part of the carrier safety profile of the company. Even though no penalty points are involved there is still this record that will follow the company.

I have reported two incidents of dangerous driving - both had enough information to identify the driver.

In the first case, the VPD were great and contacted me, but basically said there was nothing they could do. The company of the driver who actually did hit me (which it took a day to realize i'd been hit - adrenaline masked the impact of his mirror but the bruise didn't lie!) was great and dealt with their driver and promised an education session on cyclists when driving in Vancouver.

Yesterday, I had a very scary incident and reported it to both the VPD and the company. The company was unbelievably unreceptive, said as long as I wasn't hurt (which was only because I was evasive and experienced) what was the problem, and were angry that I was "threatening" them to go to the VPD. I said it wasn't a threat, that I was making a complaint but wanted to give them a chance to educate their drivers on cyclists, especially given it's Bike to Work Week. (long story short, he intimidated me three times, finally forcing me from the roadway, and said I didn't belong on the roads holding up traffic and that I was riding on the roadway illegally.)

Anyway, my question here is, you imply that an investigation would be opened if I made the complaint, yet I don't believe that to be the case in Vancouver. The VPD were nice but basically said there's nothing they can do unless they see the driver driving around.

What i think is more appropriate is visiting the company and informing them of the infraction and the rights of cyclists. It was terrifying and frustrating.

In an ideal world, you make a complaint to the police, agree to being a witness in court if necessary and provide investigators with as much information about what happened as you are able to. In turn, the police investigate and if there is a substantial possibility of a conviction, ticket the driver or vehicle owner or both.

In the real world, your first point of contact is the complaint taker who is usually not a police officer. Unfortunately, they are also the first point of discouragement, at least in my experience. What you were told, that there is nothing that can be done unless the police see the driver driving around is not true if you are a willing participant in your complaint and agree to attend court as a witness if necessary. I have also been told (by a constable!) that if I cannot identify the driver nothing can be done. This is also completely untrue. You will also run into "that's not in our area." If you are talking to a municipal police force, this is true and you are better to contact the police force having jurisdiction. If you are talking to the RCMP and the incident occurs in any RCMP jurisdiction any detachment can take the details of your complaint and pass them along to the correct detachment. They are very reluctant to do this and may even refuse point blank telling you to make the contact yourself. That's not exactly police service, is it?

It can also depend on who ends up being assigned to the complaint to investigate it. Some are willing to work harder than others.

Finally, it can depend on policy set by the police force. If they decide that it isn't something that they will involve themselves in, and I would be surprised if an injury collision is one of them, then you either have to accept the decision or start working on your municipal council, MLA or MP.

This is not an anwer to your question, but if you are a cyclist involved in a collision with a motor vehicle on a highway, reporting it to ICBC should be something near the top of your "to do" list.

It is admirable that you are willing to work directly with the company involved to create improvement. When they are receptive, this can lead to great things. When they are not, well, you are back to trying to deal with the police, unless you wish to try other avenues such as reporting to the news media or taking to social media yourself.

To start with, you likely have an idea of how many altercations occur in Vancr traffic daily.

In many cases it comes down to each participant pointing the finger at the other.  Generally to launch an investigation large municipal forces draw the line at serious events.  Even some Hit and Run collisions, where from the amount of damage, it is questionable that the crown could prove the driver knew, don't get investigated by police.

I wouldn't take too much stock in the first company who promised an education session, I hope it was true.  I had a good friend who worked for a courier and every time the got the (frequently) call from an irate motorist reporting poor driving of one of their drivers, they would assure prompt disciplinary action, then hang up and laugh.

As for being told that if you made a complaint it would be investigated by the police.  The person saying so may be familiar with policing in small jurisdictions or non-municipal jurisdictions.

For the most part the RCMP handle files/investigation basically the same in Bug Tussle BC as they do in a larger detachment.  Each and every compliant is assigned to a member and they are responsible for clearing it.

Not so in a large city force, the Communications Centre take a large percentage of complaints and conclude them without any police officer being assigned to investigate.  It's just a matter of resources and prioritizing.

At one time, the VPD were routinely sending out warning letters, "your driving has come to our attention, regarding an incident on,,,,, at,,,,,, on so and so date, we will be monitoring your driving for future complaints...."  Nothing else was ever done, of course.

As an example in the mid 80's late in the year, while working in the (at the time) 8 member 1 steno VPD Hit and Run Squad, I called the RCMP Detachment I think it was Hope BC.  I asked the member to make an inquiry regarding a VPD Hit and Run, and I quoted our file number, being 10 thousand and something (late in the year)  To which the RCMP member exclaimed "Wow, you have 10,??? files ?? !!, we only have (and he quoted something in the mid 2 thousands).

I replied "You have two thousand and ###, Hit and Runs !"

He said, "No that's all our files".

I replied, "The 10,###, is just our Hit and Runs, we have hundreds and hundreds of thousands of files each year"

In a sheepish voice, he said, "oh".

So you can understand that in some places the police do have time to look into incidents that are of a less serious nature.

Even with respect to Hit and Runs, where there is not only bad driving but a victim, generally with damage.  I have had many many cases where having completed an investigation, charged the suspect, 6 months - a year later, everyone attends for the trial except the victim, who has lost complete interest, having had his vehicle repaired by ICBC.