Question: Recently I observed what I consider dangerous driving behaviors. When I called the local authorities to obtain feedback on what to do, I received different responses.
One told me to get the license plate number of the vehicle and call the authorities. And if the police had the time, they would contact the person and have a conversation regarding the concern.
When I double-checked this a week ago, I was told that since the behavior was not observed by law enforcement, and it would be a “he said, she said” situation, nothing could/would be done.
So what is considered the best action when someone sees dangerous driving behavior? I realize that confronting a person would be considered dangerous and inappropriate. — A.W. Coe, Gig Harbor
Answer: Getting the plate and calling 911 right away is the best plan, says Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool. Details to give officers include the license plate number, the direction the vehicle is headed and a description of the unsafe driving.
“Officers have to see the violation to write a ticket,” she said. “But dangerous driving is a criminal offense, which a person can be arrested for, and officers can do that on a witness statement.”
If an officer is nearby, dispatchers likely would send the patrol car to the area, Cool said.
The trouble, she says, is when a witness calls 20 minutes after the dangerous driving happened. In that event, officers must contact the registered owner of the car, which is not necessarily the driver.
Police need to contact the driver directly for traffic offenses, she said. The owner still can be held responsible for damages if there’s an accident, but that is a civil matter. They cannot be arrested or given a ticket.