On endangering your cat

On endangering your cat

Summary: A few months ago, police were investigating a series of tire ("tyre") slashings in Hampshire, England ("England") that were apparently driven by a peculiar kind of phone rage: The slasher left a blackmail-style (letters cut from a newspaper) note reading, "Warning. You have been seen driving while using your mobile phone.

TOPICS: Mobility

A few months ago, police were investigating a series of tire ("tyre") slashings in Hampshire, England ("England") that were apparently driven by a peculiar kind of phone rage: The slasher left a blackmail-style (letters cut from a newspaper) note reading, "Warning. You have been seen driving while using your mobile phone."

So what?

I've noticed "Hang Up And Drive!" bumper stickers but I've never heard of anyone tackling this problem quite so...directly. Since a driver on the phone is (as we keep hearing) more dangerous than a driver on the bottle, it certainly isn't surprising that someone's gotten mad as heck and isn't going to take it anymore--perhaps (s)he was the victim of a road accident caused by a yammering motorist. That is not the point, however. The point is that the perpetrator apparently has easy access to England's motor vehicle database (MVDB) and isn't afraid to use it.

An MVDB is a dangerous thing to leave lying around, for reasons the cellular vigilante amply demonstrates. Here I'll do my usual scale-up ("if everybody had it") analysis: What if a service called MVDB-Lookup (which for all I know is already a Silicon Valley start-up with two rounds of funding) let you get a name and address just by texting in a registration number?

We tend to have a feeling of invulnerability in our cars and at the same time tend to "become" them--we say, "he rear-ended me!" rather than "his car rear-ended my car." So it would be fitting if your particulars could be easily derived from your registration plate by anyone who was casually curious. This would be a bad situation because (as you know if you spend any time there) the earth is home to many crazy persons--in particular, persons willing to extract disproportionate revenge for the slightest slight. And slights (deliberate or otherwise) are part and parcel of driving--even the most careful vehicle operator can't avoid giving offense once in a while.

On the plus side, MVDB-Lookup would let you hurl more personalized insults ("Only losers live in Long Beach!") at fellow motorists. However, it would also give numerous deranged drivers the tools they need to extract revenge for automotive sins real and imagined. So if you come home one evening to find your garbage cans tipped over and your cat soaking in Nair, you'll understand why. Further proof that the democratization of information isn't always a good thing. Drive safe.

Topic: Mobility

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • I say kudos

    to the tyre slasher! Good on this person! My feelings about people on the phone while driving... well I have no tolerance for it. Ironically this morning I was almost in yet another accident because some idiot was on the cell phone, didn't bother to signal intent and while I am barreling down the freeway at the posted speed of 65MPH, he swerves out in front of me doing an estimated 50MPH then PROCEEDS TO APPLY HIS BRAKES! Good thing I still have quick reflexes and ABS! I managed to slow down and keep maybe 4 inches between our bumpers!

    So no, I have no tolerance for morons on the cell phone. And that is what they are when they are yakkin and driving... morons. It's been proven medically that talking on the phone uses the same center of the brain used to drive. I will dig around and see if I can find the medical report on this. Anyhow that means that if you are fully engaged in a conversation, you are NOT engaged in controlling 1 - 2 tons of steel, glass and plastic hurtling down the road.

    And people just accept this? BS Keep slashing baby! Keep slashing... and if the person has access to the DB it's very possible that they work for a DMV as well... ]:)
    Linux User 147560
    • I agree with this one also!

      The only factor that I might disagree with is that the "crusader," however that person accomplished revenge for stupidity, is opening the door to prosecution for him or her self.

      Crime as a response to crime is a self-defeating activity. It causes the person taking action to be liable for "reflected" legal action. Because that tire slasher must now conceal identity due to the involved activities, the old rule about 'what comes around goes around" now applies.

      "For every action there is a reaction," also applies in law, and in the way society functions.

      The problem is that today, at least in the US, law enforcement is so hobbled and limited by the very law it supports, that police must assure that they won't become objects of charges every time they take enforcement action.

      What to do about the driver on a cell phone? Legally speaking, no malicious mischief charges resulting? About the only thing you can do is to note everything you can about the offender, pull over and phone dispatch. With all the technology we have today, it should work.

      Back in my day we had call boxes on utility poles we could use to stay off the radio, or when off duty. As for police tracing someone through vehicle registration addresses, we used to find that many drivers were not, for a variety of reasons at the address on the license.

      In the longrun, the moron gabbing away on a cell phone may suffer some repercussions from the accident caused, if that person is alive after the accident. I wonder how many air-heads on the road think about the fact that they are setting themselves up for their own injuries or death by distracting themselves.

      It would appear that the only way out of this driver distraction syndrome would be to have technology intercede and take over driving functions, leaving the former driver to watch TV, GPS, talk on the phone, etc. After that the only issue would become on-board computer failure.
  • Who said...

    Who said that this person had access to the database? This could be as simple as someone who's watched them physically and simply gone after them when it was 'safe' to do so.

    I agree that using devices like cell phones while driving is completely unsafe and should be outlawed. I've had many a near miss and survived because I drive with a sort of precognitive ability to see them coming before I'm there in their 'death zone.' I use such a term because I've driven motorcycle for over 35 years and any tangle with your bigger vehicles is highly likely to be lethal for us bikers.

    That said, on a rare occasion I've used a cell phone while driving, usually chasing a drunk or hit and run driver and talking to the police to give them details of when, where and whatever descriptions I can. But that's been when I'm in my truck. But generally, I won't use the phone, even though I use a voice dial via a bluetooth headset simply because it is still distracting. I say, when you're driving, DRIVE!
    • You can't do both

      I agree wholeheartedly. I'm approaching 70, began motorcycling at the age of about 14, when we'd put on leather helmets and goggles to try to allude traffic cops detecting our ages. we'd steal registration plates, cut them in half, weld the opposite halves together and re-paint.

      When I "grew up," I became, for a time, a motorcycle cop.

      Now old and "mobility challenged," this article has caused me to reflect on why I spent years in a wheelchair.

      In the days before cell phones patrol cars still had the radios, with eh microphones, and the speakers nobody could quite hear over the din of "code 3" noise. One cop, alone in a patrol car, trying to understand the radio, ran over both me and the motorcycle while we were blockading traffic at an active crime scene. The cop in the car was distracted, trying to get a repeat of instructions.

      I live in a 3rd world country now, where most drivers, of any kind of vehicle, either talk on, or text, using cell phones. This causes multiple vehicle incidents. I think that if someone calls you, even if the caller "rings off" due to no answer, one can pull over ASAP, and call back. there is no need to use any distracting device while driving.
    • Message has been deleted.

    • Message has been deleted.

    • Message has been deleted.

  • Tracing you through databases

    The above offering was humorous, however I know of another incident which was not humorous. An individual in the US tracked down and murdered his estranged wife, even though she had taken extreme measures to conceal her public identity and location. The murderer, now supposedly apprehended, merely consulted voting registration records until he found likely aliases his spouse might use, then traced her through one of the voting registered addresses. The advice by the TV program which aired this was not to register to vote if you are in hiding. All well and good, how about other public record databases such as property taxes?