How should you deal with or react when the person you are conducting surveillance on begins driving fast or erratic? This question was asked on one of my videos and I thought it was important enough to write about to provide some advice for new and veteran investigators that conduct surveillance.
There are many scenarios during a surveillance that will happen however, some scenarios happen more than others. Following someone that drives fast or erratic is just one of those things that you will have to deal with.
Before I provide my advice I want to tell you how I was trained to deal with drivers that drove fast and erratic (or just bad drivers).
In The Beginning of my Surveillance Career
So way back when I first started there was this mentality (that still exists in the industry) of following you subject basically no matter what. My trainers would provide examples of illegal driving techniques like running through red lights, speeding, dangerously passing vehicles and other various techniques to stay with the subject I would be following. They wanted this all to happen while “being safe”.
If I got a speeding ticket, ticket for some illegal driving maneuver, or was to get a ticket for having tint on my windows the company I would work for would not pay for my tickets. The result of anything I did illegally was on me. If something happened in the course of my surveillance that damaged my vehicle the company I worked for would not pay for those repairs. If something bad happened during a surveillance like an accident, or if I injured someone from reckless driving, the company would not have to deal with those consequences. I would have to deal with those consequences all in the name of just trying to make a living.
- There is a lot of pressure from a financial perspective (you working 8 hours a day) to stay with the person you are conducting surveillance on.
- There is pressure from the company you work for as it relates to how long you follow someone or how many times you lose someone during a surveillance. They are keeping track.
- There is pressure from clients who don’t understand 100 obstacles a private investigator will encounter each day of surveillance.
There is the morale crusher at times when you have a streak of losing people you are following (whether it be your fault or not). This will affect your confidence as well.
So when I first started I did many stupid things in the pursuit of following people during a surveillance because I just thought that there was no other way to conduct surveillance. In the early part of my career I drove in a manner that was unsafe and irresponsible, largely in part because at the time I didn’t know any better and didn’t know any different way.
During this time I will say that I was very self aware in regards to knowing when I believed the person I was following was on to me (but I will get into that a bit later).
How do I Deal With Following People That Drive Fast or Drive Reckless (just bad drivers)?
Over the course of your career you will get to observe all kinds of drivers during a surveillance. The slow, the fast, the all out horrible drivers. Some drive fast because they are just bad drivers. Some drive slow just because they are cautious drivers. Some drivers are bad about running stop lights and taking short cuts through areas that are not commonly used because they are just bad drivers. And some drivers do all of the above because they know they are being followed by you. So my first piece of advice is to be self aware. Know when you are burn even when the person you are following hasn’t approached you or given you the finger. The person you are following may not give you any obvious signs they are aware you are following them but their driving habits will reveal it.
Following Fast Drivers
When I follow people that drive unreasonably fast over the speed limit and I feel as though either I am going to get a ticket or driving at an unsafe speed I stop trying to keep up with them. I reduce my speed to a little over the speed limit and try to keep my eye on their vehicle even though they may have a huge lead on me. No accident will be worth driving at a stupid speed to follow someone. No injury to someone is justifiable during a surveillance.
I do this because it isn’t safe to speed no matter whether it on the freeway or in town. Driving 50 in a 35 is not going to provide me enough time to avoid someone jumping out in front of my vehicle when following someone. Going 85 on the freeway (which is either 30 or 15 mph over the freeway speed limit in Washington state) is going to get me a ticket that I don’t get paid enough to pay.
And like I previously said earlier in this article, I have to ask myself if there is a chance that the person I am following is aware I am following them (depending on their previous driving habits or whether the case had been worked before)
Following Erratic Drivers
Many times a person you are following will make last minute turns, make u-turns in unusual locations, will zig and zag between traffic either on the freeway or in town as if they are a professional race car driver. Some will drive through business parking areas as a short cut. Some drivers will drive slow and then suddenly start driving fast. Sometimes people driver like this because they are bad drivers or sometimes they are just lost and are looking for location.
Like I previously stated, I won’t do anything that I believe is unsafe to stay with the people I am following. If I can’t stay with someone without risking the safety of myself or others then I just try to do what I can legally and safely to stay with them. If I lose them as a result then so be it. I go home each day knowing that I did the right thing by not risking the safety of others just to follow someone.
Keep in mind however that they person you are following could be driving erratically because they know you are following them or they are trying to figure if you are following them. If you drive erratically to follow them then it will confirm their suspicions. Be aware that you may be compromised and if you are you need to let that person go and you should discontinue surveillance. Nothing good is going to come from you following someone that is aware that you are conducting surveillance on them.
It didn’t take some major incident that changed the way conduct surveillance now verses when I began my surveillance career many years ago. I just realized the consequences of getting hurt physically, financially and or hurting anyone else was not worth driving like an idiot to follow someone during surveillance. Over the years I have become smart about surveillance which doesn’t require me to drive unsafe just to remain unnoticed or to stay with the individual I am following.
I will not be a liability to my own company or any company I will ever work for by taking a chance at injuring someone else to follow an individual during surveillance. The accidents I have been involved in over the years were never due to reckless driving during surveillance and I sleep well knowing that.
If you have any other questions on this feel free to carry on this discussion in the comment section. If you have questions unrelated to this be sure to contact me through the contact page.