How to report dangerous driving

March 08, 2023 by

Worried someone’s driving is dangerous and presents a serious risk to other road users? Here’s how to report them

The UK’s roads are amongst the safest in the world, but with around 1,600 deaths each year, there is clearly more that can be done.

One of the ways you or I can make roads safer is to report dangerous driving to the police so they can either stop it as it happens, or investigate it after the fact, in both instances potentially improving road safety.

But how should you report a dangerous driver, and what constitutes dangerous, rather than careless driving? This article will explain all.

What is dangerous driving?

Driving is in and of itself the highest-risk activity most of us will undertake in our lives, and there is danger implicit each time we get in a car.

But all things are relative, so clarity is much needed – and this comes from the Road Traffic Act, 1988, which defines dangerous driving as driving that:

“falls far below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver and it would be obvious that driving in that way would be dangerous.”

We emphasise ‘far’ above, as this is what differentiates dangerous driving from careless driving, which, while a serious offence that can bring harsh penalties and tragic consequences, is defined as driving that:

“falls below the minimum standard expected of a careful driver and includes driving without reasonable consideration for other road users”; note the absence of the word ‘far’.

The Crown Prosecution Service and courts will decide whether someone’s driving is dangerous or careless, but some examples of dangerous driving could include:

  • Street racing
  • Driving very poorly due to the influence of drink or drugs
  • Driving very poorly due to using a handheld mobile phone
  • Driving a vehicle with a known, serious fault

Charging decisions and criminal verdicts are both weighed up on a case’s individual merits, but for comparison, an instance of careless driving might comprise:

  • Tailgating
  • Dazzling other drivers with full-beam headlights
  • Turning into the path of another vehicle
  • Undertaking a car on the inside lane

Not everyone who tailgates another driver is prosecuted for careless driving, clearly, while using a handheld mobile is inherently dangerous, but typically results in six penalty points and a £200 fine rather than a charge of dangerous driving. So in many instances a collision or some other incident may need to occur in conjunction with such behaviours in order for such charges to be levied.

Nonetheless, the difference between dangerous and careless driving is whether someone’s driving falls “far below” or simply “below” or the ​​”standard expected of a [competent] and careful driver”. We parenthesis “competent”, as this is another subtlety in the differences between the two offences, as is the question of whether it is “obvious” a road behaviour would be dangerous.

How to report a dangerous driver

Just as the scenarios and differences described above are subtle and require judgement, so too does the decision on whether you, as a diligent member of society, should report someone’s driving as dangerous.

Taking extreme, bookended examples, if you hear someone organising a street race through a heavily populated area with another intoxicated driver as they both stagger with half-empty bottles of whiskey to their cars, this would in all likelihood indicate that these individuals were about to drive in a dangerous manner. It’s obvious, as the offence stipulates, and anyone with even an ounce of competence and care would be able to deem it so.

At the other end of the scale, reporting every instance of tailgating you see as dangerous would be disproportionate.

Most of us are able to determine ourselves when a driving behaviour is dangerous, and the police are clearly the correct authority to report such a matter to, so the question that remains is how to do this.

In simple terms, if the offence has already been committed, you should contact the police on the non-emergency 101 telephone number.

If an instance of dangerous driving is about to happen, or is in the process of occurring, you should contact the police on 999, as there is likely to be a very real, and imminent, risk to life.

If you yourself are driving, and you consider driving you have witnessed from another road user to be dangerous enough to report immediately, you should pull over at the earliest safe opportunity and contact the police via 999. Mobile phone laws do allow emergencies to be reported via a handheld device if it is “unsafe or impractical to stop”, but we would urge caution here.

For clarity, and emergency 999 call is required if*:

  • a serious offence has just happened or is in progress
  • people are in immediate danger of being hurt
  • property is in the process of being damaged
  • a serious public disruption is likely


In both instances you should ideally have the registration number and of the vehicle or vehicles in question, as well as the make and model, plus location, and a description of what is happening and (if possible) what the people involved look like; the more information you provide, the better, essentially.

If you have dashcam footage of the incident and wish to share it with the police, this can be done via dashcam-maker Nextbase’s online portal, which will take you to the relevant police force; you can also look up the relevant constabulary online, but bear in mind while most forces accept footage from the public and allow it to be uploaded easily, this is not true of every constabulary.

Reporting dangerous driving anonymously

You may wish to remain anonymous when reporting dangerous driving, and you would be entirely within your rights to do so – though be aware that depending on the precise circumstances, the Crown Prosecution Service may only be able to bring a charge if you are willing to stand as a witness in court. Some police forces may also only accept dashcam footage if you are willing to provide a statement, and attend court if required. If you would rather contact the charity Crimestoppers than the police, they can be reached anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via their website.

What happens once you’ve reported a dangerous driver?

This entirely depends on the nature of the driving incident: in some instances police may go looking for the driver immediately with a full emergency response; in others they may assess dashcam footage, conducting enquiries and contacting the driver in question in due course. There is also the possibility that police could decide the driving in question did not constitute a dangerous incident, or that there was simply not enough evidence to proceed with an investigation.

What is the penalty for dangerous driving?

Dangerous driving carries a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment, with three to 11 penalty points being added to someone’s licence, and an unlimited fine being issued. If someone dies as a result of dangerous driving, a life sentence can be handed down.

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