How to Report Reckless Driving

By Teo Spengler ; Updated March 31, 2017

"Reckless" is a term that different people would define differently. If you witness reckless driving that you believe presents a danger to the public or creates a risk to life or limb, call 911.

Reckless Driving Defined

Should you report reckless driving to the police? The stock response by police departments around the country is yes, call 911 to report reckless driving. But this response is usually qualified by a phrase like "but only call if you feel it's a truly dangerous situation."

By some definitions, driving that is reckless is always dangerous and always presents a potential danger to human life. Cornell Law School defines the term "reckless" as meaning "behavior that is so careless that it is considered an extreme departure from the care a reasonable person would exercise in similar circumstances." Black's Law Dictionary says that it implies an indifference to the welfare of other people. When you act with reckless disregard, according to Webster's New World Law Dictionary, you proceed to do something with a conscious awareness of danger while ignoring any potential consequences.

But obviously you can't call 911 every time the driver next to you at a red light starts texting. Where to draw the line?

Examples of Dangerous Reckless Driving

Various websites offer examples of when to call 911 and when not to. The Alaska Highway Patrol, for example, says you should call 911 if you see signs of dangerous driving like:

  • weaving in and out of lanes
  • driving with windows rolled down in cold weather
  • passing on curves and double yellow lines
  • straddling the center line
  • making wide or high speed turns out of assigned lanes
  • driving so slowly as to impede other traffic under current conditions, and
  • tailgating 

Road and Track website lists:

  • excessive speeding
  • swerving
  • weaving in and out of traffic
  • following too closely or tailgating
  • passing on the right
  • accelerating and braking suddenly
  • disobeying traffic signs
  • road rage
  • distracted driving

In short, you'll have to use your own discretion. It's a little like Supreme Court Justice Stewart's definition of pornography: "I know it when I see it."

Report reckless driving to 911 if you feel that it puts other drivers and pedestrians in danger. If possible, get the color, make and license plate number of the vehicle, as well as the place, time and direction the car was heading.

How to Report Erratic Driving

If you don't feel that someone's bad driving behavior represents a danger to others, you can still report it. Call the police non-emergency number and give them the information.

Or report it to a national database at a website like ReportDangerousDrivers.com. That website collects and files incident reports from people who give anonymous reports including license plate numbers and vehicle descriptions of reckless drivers..

About the Author

Living in France and Northern California, Teo Spengler is an attorney, novelist and writer and has published thousands of articles about travel, gardening, business and law. Spengler holds a Master of Arts in creative writing from San Francisco State University and a Juris Doctor from UC Berkeley. She is currently a candidate for a Master of Fine Arts in fiction.