April 12, 2007
Vol. 26 No. 14

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    How’s my driving? Law Professor Strahilevitz proposes good motorists evaluate bad drivers

    By Sabrina L. Miller
    News Office

    Lior Strahilevitz
    Photo by Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee

    Lior Strahilevitz, Assistant Professor in the Law School, believes that enacting a program encouraging drivers to report each other’s bad behavior would make the roads safer.

    If every vehicle had a bumper sticker encouraging other drivers to report reckless driving and other violations, similar to the trucking industry’s “How’s My Driving?” program, it could reduce traffic accidents and fatalities, Strahilevitz said.

    “A lot of people have had the same idea, I think I’m just the first person to develop it in a rigorous way,” he said.

    Strahilevitz first presented the idea in a paper called “How’s My Driving? For Everyone (And Everything?),” which was published in the New York University Law Review in November 2006. Since then, it has ignited dialogue among legal scholars and average citizens alike. It has been cited on numerous blogs, and Strahilevitz has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and interviewed on National Public Radio about why this form of “snitching” through motorist self-regulation can be effective. Strahilevitz also presented “How’s My Driving?” at the Law School’s Chicago’s Best Ideas lecture series in January.

    Strahilevitz said he became frustrated by inconsiderate motorists while commuting to the Law School on Lake Shore Drive, and developed the paper as a way to get people thinking more broadly about the applicability of law and technology and the very real possibility of increasing motorist accountability and safety. A “How’s My Driving?” system for all motorists could be established in a way that reduces burden on law enforcement and also provides better information to insurance companies about driver behavior.

    Strahilevitz said privacy concerns related to the program are not decisive.

    “When you’re driving a vehicle on a public street it’s not reasonable to expect privacy and certainly not when you’re speeding or cutting someone off,” Strahilevitz said. “You expect privacy in intimate relationships—doctor/patient, attorney/client . . . but for drivers on the road, I just don’t see it.”

    Strahilevitz also insists that false feedback and “vigilante justice” can be eliminated through improved technology, such as the logging of caller’s telephone numbers or looking for “suspicious patterns” of reporting. The end result also could be that courteous drivers are rewarded, which he said almost never happens. Anonymous reporting that can be properly vetted and made available only to a few people is more effective than “public shaming,” such as posting information about a bad driver on a public Web site, Strahilevitz said.

    “Public shaming often results in people being excessively punished. I don’t want that. I view this as a much better alternative to public shame sanctions,” he said.

    The end result, Strahilevitz said, is more conscientious drivers and safer roads.

    “When you’re driving on the road, your job is to get from A to B in a manner that’s safe for you and everybody else,” Strahilevitz said. “I don’t really consider it ‘snitching’ I consider it performance evaluation.”