Citizen Prosecution of Dangerous Drivers


Some drivers are so dangerous that some action must be taken to protect others. It is usually the case that a bad driver will offend again and again and the most serious cases will often result in someone being hurt and unable to identify the driver or license plate. When a  driver either uses a motor vehicle to  harass or intimidate,  or drives in a way that will be a danger to others the victim is left with a tough choice. After all, it is a hassle to make an accusation and then followup. But if we let dangerous episodes slide then the person who is most vulnerable, like a solo tourist unfamiliar with the area, or someone with a medical condition, may well be the next victim, and if a driver uses “rough driving” to intimidate a rider but cuts it a little too close then the rider is left hurt alongside the road while the driver escapes. If there are no witnesses there is little likelihood the hit and run driver will ever be apprehended and punished. While it may be a hassle to pursue a dangerous driver, if you are able to obtain the license plate number, identify the car and then you at least have sufficient information to consider doing something more than just letting it go.

But the first step is to use a mental checklist to ensure you can later identify the driver, the vehicle, and the license plate number. Repeating it over and over to yourself as a little singsong, writing it in the dirt on the side of the road, or asking a passerby to let you use a pen and paper are all possibilities, but the options are endless and you will need to be creative to obtain and retain the basic information.

We have previously written articles about Motorist Harassment and What to Do in a Collision.  These materials are collected and attached as a part of this resource and contained on our website at The articles are good general primers on their areas, but sometimes it is best to hear first hand from a layperson about how to proceed with the court system. Toward that end we have collected a number of stories from people who have had to ticket a dangerous driver, go to traffic court and then obtain a conviction. However, if the police are willing to ticket and prosecute the driver then it is much easier than trying to do it yourself.

Law Enforcement Assistance; If Help Is Available Use It

When a driver commits a dangerous traffic offense that results in an injury or amounts to harassment it is always important to call the police and ask that an investigation be conducted and that the person be charged for a crime or traffic violation. When the police respond and pursue the case then the system is working as it should and justice is usually served.

However, many times the police decide they are too busy or the situation is not clear enough for law enforcement involvement. This does not mean the driver is any less guilty of engaging in a dangerous driving practice, only that the police do not feel they can push the case. In some instances it may be best just to let the situation resolve itself with inaction. However, sometimes the evidence of a dangerous violation of the  law is clear and the driver will likely go on to predate upon other vulnerable users if they are allowed to escape any consequences. In these situations it is important for the bicyclist to pursue the driver in court through Oregon’s Citizen Prosecution Statute (ORS 153.058). The Citizen Prosecution Statute allows regular citizens to initiate an action on a traffic ticket, to subpoena witnesses and present evidence at a trial in traffic court, and if the driver is convicted, then the conviction is a moving violation just like what would be received if a police officer had initiated the case.