I recently encountered a situation where the car in front of me did not have any functioning brake lights. Unfortunately, I didn't get the license plate number, but in the future, how should this be reported? The only thing I could find online was something on answers.com, but I don't exactly take such a site as gospel truth and am looking for further information here.

  • You need advice, this week, on how to put a statistically likely to be poor person on a treadmill of unpaid fees and fines, increasing the likelihood of getting shot in a future traffic stop? theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/06/…
    – user662852
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 23:20
  • 3
    @user662852 - I see no reason to impute that motive to the question. Personally, I'd be interested in answers that avoid that result.
    – feetwet
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 1:07
  • @feetwet the OP didn't identify a jurisdiction, and I too would be interested in answers that do not involve state fines of any sort in any jurisdiction. If any materialize I will undo my -1. However, I would note that at least American middle class ignorance of the disparate impact of policing policy on unprivileged economic or racial classes is among the key political questions of these past two weeks.
    – user662852
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 2:10
  • 1
    @user662852 - This is certainly an appropriate time to consider questions of policing policy in the U.S. But Law.SE is not an appropriate place.
    – feetwet
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 2:17
  • 2
    @user662852 due to the fact that is is dangerous to everyone behind him, yes? Are you really arguing the fact that this is an important fault to correct? I don't care about fines, I want it fixed.
    – mjr
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 2:48

2 Answers 2


It is illegal to operate a vehicle on public roads without functioning brake lights. So if you observe such a vehicle "the system" for addressing it is to call 911 and report it. If available, police may try to find and stop the vehicle. At the discretion of the responding officer the vehicle operator may be given assistance, a warning, a citation, or may even have the vehicle impounded on the spot. The officer can also use the stop as a pretext to further detain and harass the operator.

(As noted in the comments, this "system" can be disturbingly unsympathetic in addressing such problems. One might consider "the neighborly thing" to be, if possible, to alert the vehicle's operator to the problem, and encourage or help them to fix the hazard.)

  • "The neighborly thing" is certainly the first resort, but unfortunately it was not possible because traffic never stopped moving. Thanks for your answer!
    – mjr
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 14:41
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    @mjr - Yeah, the problem is compounded by the fact that not all people can be trusted to respond to such an alert in a "neighborly" fashion ;)
    – feetwet
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 14:43

Call 911 (in the USA, atleast). That is actually a very dangerous situation. Don't worry about the driver getting harassed by police. If they were riding dirty they would not have broken tail lights.

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