Albany Bicycle Injury Lawyer Offers Tips for Dealing with Aggressive Drivers
You’re enjoying a bike ride on a warm spring day until, without warning, a motorist puts you in danger in the way they all-too-frequently do: disregarding your existence as they roar past you too closely, cut you off with a right or left turn, or nearly rear-end you as they approach too close before realizing there’s not enough room to pass you. No problem, though: You recover quickly and snap a cell-phone photo of their license plate before they speed away, then use a special app to report the incident. On a good day, the driver is apprehended by police a few miles down the road, where they are ticketed and/or entered into a database where they’ll appear as a repeat offender if they do it again.
Then you wake up.
Even with all the apps out there for motorists, bicyclists, and runners, there aren’t any that function as quasi-police to round up, reprimand, and ticket dangerous drivers who have not actually caused a crash. Even the popular app Nexar, where you mount your phone on your car’s dashboard to collect and process information as you drive, can’t summon the police to chase after the driver who cut you off. What it can do is warn you of impending problems such as a traffic jam ahead or a car swerving into your lane. It can also record video of dangerous situations and crashes; in fact, people have used Nexar video to prove they were not at fault in a crash. Nexar stores a lot of information in its database, including license plate numbers, and is said to be able to warn you if a repeat offender is in your area. (It’s not clear how adaptable Nexar is to bicycles, or if the company has developed a bike-friendly version.)
Bicycling Apps for Reporting Bad Drivers & Crash Safety
There is a well-regarded, worldwide, bicyclist-specific reporting outlet called Close Call Database, which you can log into from the popular cycling app Strava. As Colorado cyclist and attorney Megan Hottman notes, the database is not connected to law enforcement and the information on it “might not be legally relevant.” But she strongly encourages reporting incidents to outlets like Close Call Database and also to the police:
“It’s always worth reporting behavior if you can safely note the vehicle info,” says Hottman. “If you’re not in danger, try to note things like the vehicle make, model, color, and plate number; physical characteristics of the driver; and time of day and where the altercation occurred. The more details, the better. There are people who will repeatedly target cyclists. If you report it, even if they don’t contact the driver, they have a record of it and can develop a history of conduct.”
Most apps for bicyclists and runners seem to be about mapping routes, comparing gear, monitoring health and fitness metrics, and setting and attaining goals for the run or ride. There is one called Crash App, which comes into play in the unfortunate event of an actual crash (used for biking, skiing, horseback riding, etc.). If the app detects an impact or sudden change of speed, it will “ask” if you’re okay; if there is no response, it will contact a designated “buddy” to set a rescue in motion.
How to Report an Aggressive Driver
On reporting dangerous drivers, there is one special circumstance in which quickly gathering information about the offending vehicle may produce immediate results: when it’s an official company vehicle. If you can get a photo of the license plate and a description of the vehicle and driver (always gather this info as safely as possible—not when moving on your bike or in your car), you can report the incident to the appropriate department at the company itself (by phone, email, even Twitter), where they are likely to be concerned about their public image and therefore might take internal action to ensure their drivers act more responsibly.
Again, if no crash has occurred and no proof of a motor-vehicle infraction is available, local police departments may not take much interest in your report of dangerous driving. New York state, however, under the auspices of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, has a more developed policy on road-safety issues, including a website page titled Aggressive Driving. There, you can find information from the state’s grant-supported programs to enhance enforcement of aggressive driving to safety tips on how to avoid conflict with drivers who may be angry, impatient, or intoxicated (stay calm, keep your distance, don’t exchange words or crude gestures, etc.).
While those conflict-avoidance tips were written with drivers in mind, they apply all the more so to bicyclists, who are already at a disadvantage and are strongly advised by bicycling experts not to engage with an aggressive driver.
The New York state site also makes a distinction between aggressive driving—which encompasses such things as speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, and making selfish choices in traffic—and “road rage,” which involves more threatening, assaultive, even violent behavior that would be classified as criminal.
And the governor’s committee does encourage people to report incidents of reckless or impaired driving by calling *911. The site stresses that police cannot issue a ticket based on your report if they have not witnessed the behavior themselves, but getting the report into the record can be useful later, especially if a vehicle is involved in multiple reported incidents, or if incidents occur frequently at a particular place and time.
Dreyer Boyajian LaMarche Safranko is headquartered in Albany, New York, and represents clients in bicycle and pedestrian injury cases in state and federal courts throughout New York state. Call us at (518) 463-7784 or contact us.