After having seen a car make a dangerous lane switch on the freeway, a few days ago, I pondered if it were possible to report bad drivers, as a form of social policing. While the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) provides no such service, there are websites that allow for such reporting, albeit with interfaces that leave a lot to be desired. The objective of most of these sites is to provide an observer of rash driving, a medium to vent her frustration and relieve stress. The rash driver, though, may remain blissfully ignorant of the agony resulting from his driving. And with no penalty or censure, there is nothing to stop rash drivers from posing a future risk to other innocent lives, in addition to their own. Further, the reporting is web-based, which means that one cannot report a rash driver immediately after the incident. By the time the observer reaches her destination, the incident may be forgotten and go unreported.

Two factors – a quick and convenient means of reporting, and proactive action in terms of a warning from the DMV – may serve the purposes of educating rash drivers, preempting possible accidents, and leaving the reporter with the satisfaction that comes from being socially responsible. The omnipresent cellphone can be used to call up or SMS a number to report the misbehaving vehicle promptly, while the DMV can provide the means for such reporting, as well as notify rash drivers of the complaints against them. There are drawbacks to this system – false reports and inaccurate observations of license plate numbers being two of them. In my opinion, the upside benefit of saving lives far overshadows the drawback of mistakenly informing someone that he has been driving rashly.

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