NAPA (KPIX 5) — Motorists frustrated with other drivers making unsafe maneuvers on the road are fighting back, with cheap dash-mounted cameras, and a YouTube account.
With full HD cameras, flash memory, and video editing software more affordable than ever before, every bad choice behind the wheel could go easily viral.
Incidents of bad driving are posted on YouTube channels such as “Bad Drivers of Napa,” which was started 2 years ago, featuring 130+ videos with nearly 400,000 total views.
The most popular video shows the driver of a silver BMW upset at a slower driver on a windy road in Wine Country. In the video, the agitated BMW driver honks, swerves back and forth, and flashes his middle finger. The video then shows the BMW driver trying to pass the slower traffic several times, nearly causing head-on collisions, and quickly swerving back into the lane.
In an email to KPIX 5, the anonymous owner of Bad Drivers of Napa said personal safety has become a concern. “I’ve received many threats from angry Napans over the months of doing these videos. I can’t even let the public know which town I specifically live in, in the Napa Valley, just that I live in the Valley. Or what kinds of cars my team and I drive,” the owner explained.
The trend is picking up with the latest local YouTube channel “Bad Drivers of Santa Cruz.” It launched in June 2013 featuring plenty of bad lane changes, unsafe merging, and illegal U-turns.
Like the owner of the Napa site, the channel’s owner also wished to remain anonymous. “I feel like there’s no accountability on the roads. I see drivers making dangerous and illegal maneuvers every day on the roads, and I’m sure you do too. My goal is to spread awareness in my hometown about these types of behaviors and really to let people know that some is watching and holding them accountable,” the owner told KPIX 5 by email.
“I don’t think there is any better and safer way to do that than with a dash cam. I feel that the more drivers have dash cams, the less likely drivers will be to do unsafe on the roads,” the owner added.
A quick search of YouTube shows ‘Bad Drivers’ channels from all over the world: Southern California, Portland, Oregon, Vancouver, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Texas. Russia has experienced an explosion in the number of dash cams because of rampant insurance fraud, corruption, and road rage.
CHP officer Brad Sadek doubts the YouTube channels are forcing drivers to behave on the road, or making us safer.
“I don’t see it having that big of an impact. Not many people hop on YouTube just to see what bad drivers in Santa Cruz or Napa are really doing,” said Sadek.
Sadek said shooting the videos is legal, as long as the camera is mounted on the dashboard, or in the lower corners of the windshield.
If the camera is mounted on the windshield in the lower corner on the driver side, it must not exceed the area of a five-inch square. If the camera is mounted on the windshield in the lower corner on the passenger side, it must not exceed the area of a seven-inch square.
Sadek also said it appears the creators of the videos are driving aggressively themselves. In one instance, it appears the driver from the Napa channel sped up to block another driver out of the lane.
“I think he could drive a bit more courteously. I don’t want to call him a jerk. But I think it’s important that we all drive courteously,” said Sadek.
KPIX 5 showed the videos to other drivers, who were skeptical it would shame others into being safer.
“I thoroughly understand the frustration and why this person wants to do that, whether or not it’s OK, I’m not sure,” said Leo Herrera, a driver in San Jose.
“I’ll drive safe because it’s the law and you want to make sure everyone’s safe and you don’t want anybody harmed,” said Elizabeth Scarola, also in San Jose.
The CHP said it is legal to call 911 while driving to report emergencies or immediate threats. The agency said drivers can also report aggressive driving, non-emergency traffic hazards, and other non-emergency issues to 1-800-TELL-CHP.
“Notifying the CHP of bad drivers, compared to posting videos on YouTube, is much more effective and has a positive impact on roadway safety,” said Sadek.
(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)