Driving tests

How to report bad driving

If you spot someone driving particularly poorly on the road you can dial *555 to report them (note the * before the number). Don’t dial 111 unless it’s an emergency. *555 goes to a police call centre but it will be dealt with as a lower priority call than a 111 call.

The types of things you can report are:

  • Repeated erratic driving (e.g. you suspect the driver is drunk or under the influence of drugs)
  • Non-injury crashes (especially where debris or fluids have been left on the road)
  • Traffic congestion
  • Breakdowns (especially where the vehicle is blocking a lane)
  • Obstructions on the road (e.g. a mattress on the road)

Dial 111 if there is

  • an incidence of road rage which is threatening someone’s safety
  • a person is driving exceptionally dangerously (e.g. the wrong way on a motorway)
  • someone is badly injured.

Can you use your mobile phone to make a *555 or 111 call without being prosecuted?

If you must follow a driver to provide police updates, or it’s not possible for you to stop safely to report something, then yes, you can use your hand-held mobile phone while driving.

Reporting non-urgent bad driving

Non-urgent incidents of poor driving can be reported using the Report a bad driver online form here or by downloading this form and posting it. These incidents might be one-offs and don’t pose a continuing danger to other road users.

The types of incidents you can report are:

  • Dangerous overtaking
  • Inconsiderate driving, brake testing, etc
  • Crossing the centre line (e.g. dangerously on corners)
  • Tailgating (following too closely)
  • Holding up traffic on a motorway (e.g. driving too slow, hogging the middle lane or right-hand lane, etc).

The driver won’t be prosecuted for the offence and no investigation will be undertaken by Police, but the vehicle owner will receive a letter from Police if they can identify an offence. The letter will outline the offence and what is expected of the driver to drive safely and courteously. You must provide a registration number for Police to be able to know who the vehicle owner is. This process is anonymous – the person who receives the letter won’t find out who you are.

If you want the incident to be investigated then you must lodge a formal complaint at your nearest police station.

What happens when you dial *555

I have called *555 around 10 times in 20 years of driving. Most of those were for obviously drunk drivers weaving all over the road, one was for an accident (not involving me), one was for a swan on the central median of the Northwestern Motorway in Auckland and one for a large branch in the left-hand northbound lane of the Harbour Bridge.

Police have usually answered very quickly and it’s an efficient process. It helps for clarity if you know the NATO phonetic alphabet (i.e. alfa, bravo, charlie, delta for A, B, C, D, etc), you can provide a description of the driver (just in case the driver denies driving it if Police follow up later) and you know what kind of car you’re following as this helps the Police quickly identify the driver. In the seven or so cases where I’ve followed a drunk driver, only one of those cases has resulted in a patrol car being able to get to me in time before the driver either stopped, I lost the car (e.g. was unable to keep up without endangering myself or other road users), or I was heading too far from my destination and called it off.

In three of the cases I’m pretty sure the driver realised I was following as it’s quite difficult to follow someone on a motorway when their speed varies between 70-120kph without them being suspicious.

The final time I did this a couple of years ago (and possibly the reason I haven’t done it since), I followed a guy from the Waterview on-ramp (where he nearly hit my car) to Onehunga, all the time talking to the *555 dispatcher who was trying to get a patrol car to our location. He pulled up in a car park and fell asleep at the wheel. A couple of minutes later two patrol cars turned up. I had to identify the car. They breath-tested him and he blew around twice the old limit of 400 or 0.08%. I thought that would be it, but unfortunately he took the case to court with a drink driving lawyer because his job relied on him driving and therefore I had to go to the District Court in Manukau not once, but twice. It wasted a whole day and I received no financial compensation for it.

But, don’t let that put you off. If you see someone who shouldn’t be driving, give the authorities a call on *555.

driver training

Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

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