Instances of reckless driving on Washington roadways happen all too frequently.  Whether it is traveling at a speed too high for the traffic conditions, illegal street racing, texting while driving, or swerving between lanes at high speeds, aggressive driving, reckless drivers pose a serious threat to your safety and the safety of others on the road.  Understanding what constitutes reckless driving and ways you can report this activity can be useful and provide safety to our communities. 

reporting a dangerous driver

Defining Reckless Behavior

Behaviors that endanger others take many forms. Reckless behavior occurs when individuals are, or should be, aware of risks involved in their actions. In Washington State, reckless behavior is defined by RCW 46.61.500 as “(a)ny person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving. Violation of the provisions of this section is a gross misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to three hundred sixty-four days and by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars.” Beyond these consequences, reckless drivers face potential suspension or revocation of their driver’s license and are required to install an interlock device on all vehicles they operate.

 

Spotting Bad, Reckless, or Aggressive Behavior

Types of driving that raise the risk of endangering others include:

      Driving at excessive or insufficient speeds

      Driving aggressively

      Racing on public roadways

      Embracing another while driving

      Texting or other distracted driving

      Driving in dark conditions without headlights

      Excessive swerving or drifting between lanes

      Improper merging or passing

      Disregarding traffic signals or signage

       Washington State Patrol defines aggressive driving as “The commission of two or more moving violations that is likely to endanger other persons or property, or any single intentional violation that requires a defensive reaction of another driver. Risky driving behavior can potentially escalate to serious violence.”


Exercising Caution

Given the dangerous conditions these behaviors can cause, it is important to be mindful of your safety as well as the safety of your passengers. First and foremost, act prudently and keep a safe distance from the vehicle in question. Do not engage a reckless driver by following or confronting them. Actions such as photographing the vehicle’s license plate or making contact with a driver can elicit an unforeseen and potentially more dangerous response. Do not pull to the side of the road. If you need to stop, exit the roadway, and find a safe, public place. Finally, it is possible a driver may be experiencing a medical or some other type of emergency.  As with any other dangerous behavior, it is imperative to report it. When you report a reckless driver, law enforcement will take appropriate action.  You should not engage a reckless driver in any way.

 

Reporting Reckless Behavior

When you see instances of reckless driving that appear particularly hazardous, call 9-1-1 immediately via a hands-free device or ask a passenger to call.  Per WSP, be prepared to provide the following information:

  • Location of vehicle, including road or highway
  • Plate number
  • Direction of travel
  • Color/colors of the vehicles
  • Weapons involved
  • Description of driving acts
  • Victim or witness

For non-emergency incidents, you can file a traffic complaint with the King County Sheriff’s office.  Within Seattle city limits, you can report a potential crime by calling the City’s non-emergency number 206-625-5011. You can also report unsafe truck driving by calling the number on the vehicle’s “How’s my driving?” bumper sticker.


Responding to a Report of Reckless Driving

By calling 9-1-1, law enforcement is charged with responding.  A typical response includes locating the vehicle, observing the driver’s behavior, and taking quick, appropriate action. Dashboard camera footage assists in this process and can be used as evidence. The timelier and more accurate your account is, the better chances are for law enforcement to apprehend a driver and prevent a serious accident.

While there is no guarantee that law enforcement will locate a reported reckless driver, road safety depends on responsible decision-making.  It means knowing how to respond when we encounter reckless drivers on our routine commutes or long road trips. If you witness or are a victim of reckless driving, please report it and help prevent more automobile tragedies from happening.


Reckless Truck drivers

Not only should you report reckless drivers, but you should also report any commercial drivers that are driving in any way recklessly.  It is important that commercial drivers given the nature of their vehicles operate at slower speeds and with more caution. All too often these big rigs cause serious or fatal injuries.