Friday, June 11, 2004

Dumbass car driver, how to report a (Bitching, diary, advice)

Before I start, I just wanted to say that I remember writing an entry yesterday, but it said there was an error. I don't remember what that entry was about; it's possible that the one that was published yesterday was that one.

Anyways, yesterday I had a small pizza at Gabriel's Pizza, but couldn't finish it, so I tied it to my bike's rear rack with a couple of bungee cables that I always keep on me. Pretty cool, eh?

Anyways, this dumbass driver did the stupidest thing was I was coming home. It's a bit long to explain, but I'll try. Because I spoke with so many people, the story is re-told, but it gets more concise each time I tell it:

I was on my bicycle, approaching a red light at an intersection where many cars going in my direction tend to turn right. Traffic was very light; there was only one car, and he was behind me. As I neared the intersection, I saw in my rear-view mirror that he wasn't signalling, but figured he might still be turning, so I moved to the centre of the right lane (there were two lanes going straight in my direction, among others).

I as I stopped, I saw that he was now signalling, so I moved forward and to the left, so that I was on the line between the two rightmost lanes (so there's a full lane to my right), and a bit past the stop line. This way, there was more than enough room for him to move into and through that lane at the red light.

The stupid dumbass moves to my left, stops, looks all ways, and starts to turn. Needless to say, I shouted at him (I think my exact words were, "DUMBASS...FUCKING DUMBASS!"), and then indicated to him in a similar tone that he should turn right from the rightmost part of the road. He sort of stared at me, then got back to turning right. I looked at the car driver behind me as if to say, "Is this guy stupid or what?"

By this point, the light turned green, so I stopped on the other side to get my pen out to write his plate number on my arm so I wouldn't forget. Then, I remembered I had instructions in my wallet for reportin aggressive driving (although I realize his driving was not aggressive, but it was a pretty extravagant case of being illagal.) I pulled out my cell phone, and then thought, hey, how about instead of just writing down the info, I call him in right now?

I decided not to do that until I got my information straight. I then considered chasing him, but by that point it was too late. So I decided to finish the ride home and report it when I get there. I looked at my watch to get the time and looked at my arm to remember the plate number. D'oh! I had decided not to write it! Luckily, I had said it to myself v-e-r-y c-l-e-a-r-l-y and I was able to recover it.

When I got home, I called Ottawa Police. I made a recording of my side of the phone conversation on my PDA (so it's tough trying to figure out what they said; I should have used a speakerphone). I'll say now that I've put instructions for reporting stupid behaviour like this at the end of this blog entry. When I got to the "press this or that", it said there was a list of frequently called numbers in the red pages of the phone book. I got that, then phoned again and pressed the button that got me to an operator, because the red pages didn't show anything that jumped out at me.

So I spoke with the operator, who was very friendly (all the attendants I spoke to were very friendly and helpful). I explained the situation, and she put me through to collision investigators...

I explained the situation to that person (I think it was a man), and asked that person if this was a significant enough offence to report. There was a bit of confusion as to the lanes. Eventually, I conveyed to him that I was to the left of the right lane, which was completely empty, and the driver passed me and turned from the left lane. The guy (I think he was a constable or detective) said that it is illegal to turn right from the left turn lane. I said, "yes, I'm quite aware of that, and, uh, I made him aware of it too!" So I asked if he'd like me to report it. He asked if I saw the driver. I said, I did. He asked if he pulled over and we talked, and I said very casually (think Bob Newhart), "well, no, he drove off. But he stopped as he was passing, and then as I was yelling at him, uh, he looked at me."

He made sure I had the plate number and car description, and said I could file a formal traffic complaint and it will be assigned to a district traffic officer in that area, and they will follow up with me. It would depend on how much evidence there is, if there were any witnesses, etc.

He passed me on to extention 7300 (it's listed in the red pages).

A lady came on the phone, and I explained the situation very briefly at first, to get the general idea (she apparently was scribbling this all down). I gave her this information:
- I was on my bicycle, stopped at an intersection
- I was on the dotted line, so there was a full lane (perhaps I should have said empty lane) to my left, and full lane to my right
- The driver, instead of going to my right and turning right on the light, went to my left and turned right

I then gave the more detailed version, which you already know (with street names, and other stuff).

She must have made some comment as to the stupidity of the driver's move, because I said "yeah, there's all kinds".

I gave her the time of the incident, and she asked if it was still light outside at the time. I then gave her my particulars (including my name, birthdate, home and cellphone numbers), and description of the vehicle (licence plate number ARLD 683, white recent model station-wagon-type vehicle), described the driver (male, around 50, geying hair, white), and there were no passengers in the car.

She asked what I would like the police to do. I tought this was very quaint. I asked "what are my options?" Apparently, some people only want to report it, but don't want the police to do anything about it. How unproductive and stupid. Upon her suggestion, I asked her to have the driver contacted to let him know what the rule is in that situation.

I told her I'm a member of Citizens for Safe Cycling, so any opportunity to educate a motorist, I try to take. She gave me the case number, and I thanked her.

So here's How to report bad or aggressive driving: (modified from the instructions I had in my wallet)
These instructions and tips are only if you are not hit or injured. Disclaimer: these are my tips based on this one incident; I am not a police officer and this advice is not official.
1. Stop.
2. Take note of the vehicle make, model, colour, licence plate number, the location and time and the driver's description, as well as the descriptions of any passengers. See if there are any witnesses who can corroborate (important if you want charges laid).
      - make sure you get the exact licence plate number; often plates are distributed in bulk to the same dealership, so simliar models can have very similar plate numbers.
      - note driver's skin colour, approximate age, hair colour, whether he/she wears glasses, and any other distinguishing features (facial hair, etc.). The colour of their shirt is not as useful.
      - if you have a camera, try to take photos of the car as it zooms off, as well as of the area. This will save your memory. Take many photos in case some don't turn out well. If the camera is digital, don't turn it off until it is finished writing the picture. If you have a device that will record audio, take note of everything mentioned here.
      - also check the little things, like the light sequence if at an intersection, where you and they were in the lane, whether the other driver's lights were on, and the lighting/weater conditions at the time.
3. If you think the driver is impaired and/or could hurt someone, call 911 immediately. Otherwise, call the local police (613-236-1222 in Ottawa). Try to be friendly. If it's not an emergency, you should go to a place where you can fulfil as many of these criteria:
      - you can use a landline (cell phone reception is often poor, and wind may obsctruct sound)
      - you can make an audio recording of the call (perhaps more for your own use than anything else)
      - if making an audio recording, try using a speakerphone so the other side of the conversation is also recorded
      - take notes, and take audio notes of things the recorder may not have picked up from the other side, like where you're being forwarded.
      - you have a listing of police phone numbers and extentions (the red pages)
4. Dial the extention for reporting incidents (7300 in Ottawa) or tell the operator you would like to make a formal traffic complaint, or make a report of road rage (depending on the case).
5. Give a brief description of the incident to give them the gist of what happened. Say that you want a report taken, and ask for the report number (if they don't give it to you). Give them all the details of the incident (they will probably prompt you) and let them know if you took pictures. They will also prompt you for your name, date of birth, home and cell/business number, address, etc.
      - if they say they will not take a report, ask for their name and ID, and their supervisor's name, and ask to speak to the supervisor, then again ask for the report to be taken. If they refuse, write a complaint letter to the Chief of Police.
      - take note of anything that you have not already noted, including time of the phone call.
6. If you have not heard back from the police in 2-3 weeks, call them and ask to speak to the investigator of your incident.

Hopefully, you'll never have to go through this. Ottawa drivers on the whole are fairly obedient, stupid as some are.

- RG.

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