Monday, December 7, 2009

The Anonymity of Driving

The one thing that our metal boxes provide us is pure anonymity. Once we close the door on the outside world, turn on our radios and start the engine, no one really knows who we are.

Sure, some people may emboss the identity that they want the outside world to know about them with a clever license plate name or moniker that says something about them. Some people will drive a vehicle that has a corporate name or business identity, but for the most part, the driver remains hidden behind steel, glass and plastic.

Maybe thats why so many people drive in a world that the only person that matters is them. The only place that matters is where they are and the only time that matters is their here and now. Those are the people that cut you off, speed with reckless abandon, blow through red lights, follow too close and any number of untold risks to your life and mine.

Most professional and courteous drivers don’t care who knows them or knows who they are once they are inside their steel cocoons. They drive in a cooperative and safe manner because it is the smarter and better thing to do for all of us.

Many companies have their corporate vehicles tagged with GPS and AVLS tracking systems, while others ask, “How’s my driving? Call 1800.....”. I have never seen any publications that show how effective this is as a deterrent for their companies drivers to operate in, but I believe that if you were one of those drivers and you don’t want any attention of this type brought to you, you’d drive pretty decent.

So what about the rest of us? Wouldn’t it be interesting if instead of a small piece of plastic for our wallets, the Ministry of Transportation gave us a magnetic card that we had to attach to the door of our cars. No more hiding in anonymity, no more nameless actions; just you your name and your behaviour out there for all to see and know. Go one step further...convicted of Impaired Driving, Over 80, Dangerous Driving, Operating without Insurance, Suspended Driving, etc...A scarlet letter to show how much of a danger to the pucblic you are so that we can all take greater care and awareness around you.

Would you still be cutting cars off in an attempt to move the precious spot or two ahead in the cue? Would you still speed through a neighbourhood full of children or go through the red lights? Probably not.

So, for the sake of safety and cooperation, drive like you are fully identifiable, drive like your name is on the side of your vehicle. Drive safe, be alert and be aware.

Road safety is every one’s responsibility. Do your part.


  1. It's amazing that a registered license plate isn't a deterrent by itself. You're broadcasting who you are but I don't think the public realizes that you can use a plate to report a driver racing down a residential street or driving aggressively.

    I know if I saw a guy randomly throwing knives in the air while walking down Queen Street, I'd probably let the police know.

    Now if that same guy was leap-frogging on the Gardiner Expressway, cutting people off and such, not many would do anything (the current cellphone ban makes this a little hard to do). How many people actually memorize a plate and call it in? I don't know how common this is so perhaps Tim can jump in. Is it common?

    I think there's a climate that people simply expect this kind of behavior even though they admit, as recently as your poll, how much this driving behavior troubles them and upsets them. They don't seem to do much about it.

  2. I actually did see a "DUI" license plate here in South Carolina a few weeks ago. "DUI505" or something. Then, researching it later, I found this interesting article:

    For some traffic crimes, the very idea of a "scarlet letter" might be a deterrent (no mother would want others to know that she went speeding through a school zone). But for others -- including DUI -- I'm not so sure. There are underlying psychological problems with crimes like that, and just as the death penalty has been shown not to deter violent crime, harsh public penalties for crimes where the offender "couldn't help it" may not, either.

    And yes, I understand that "helping it" is a choice. So perhaps much more effective deterrents would involve keeping the offender off the street altogether for a week (minor offenses) or longer?