Once upon a time, angry fender-bender victims who wanted to allege the other guy was an idiot or a crook were limited to an audience of family and friends.
But as two GTA motorists are finding out, all it takes in 2012 to transform a minor car accident into a reputation-threatening debacle is a dashboard camera, YouTube and the so-called wisdom of crowds.
Last Thursday, Ajax resident Raguruban Yogarajah and Mississauga student Herman Sham were involved in a fender-bender on the 401. Neither dispute that while they were stopped in cramped rush-hour traffic, Yogarajah’s black Honda Acura rolled backwards and bumped Sham’s Subaru.
Sham believes Yogarajah was trying to scam him, and 130,000 YouTube viewers largely agree.
But Yogarajah says it was a genuine mistake. He’s worried for his family’s safety since venomous — and sometimes racist — commenters started posting his personal information online. “I work two jobs. I don’t need to go scamming for $500 to live my life,” says Yogarajah.
See the video below:
Sham, 24, a photography student, captured Thursday’s fender-bender on a $40 dashboard camera.
The next day, he uploaded the footage to YouTube with the title “The reason why you need a dash camera (scam foiled).” In the video, he added word bubbles alleging Yogarajah demanded $500 on the spot to pay for the damage.
“Please be aware of these fake accident(s),” Sham wrote online.
Viewers — more than 125,000 in the last 36 hours — have added a running commentary of vitriol, threats and racism.
One called Yogarajah a “scumbag” and posted his home address in Ajax. “Don’t underestimate technology and the power of the internet,” the commenter wrote.
Yogarajah is worried and scared.
He says the first thing he told Sham was, “Did you bump into me or did I bump into you?” His car is a manual, and he says it probably rolled backward when he distractedly took his foot off the brake.
The video doesn’t seem to show Yogarajah’s reverse lights come on. He points to this as proof he didn’t reverse, while YouTube commenters use it as proof he disconnected them and his tail lights in advance. In the sunlight’s glare, it’s impossible to tell if either was working.
Yogarajah doesn’t deny he is at fault for the collision. But he got frustrated at the scene because, he says, Sham insisted Yogarajah had reversed on purpose. So Yogarajah called police himself (a move Sham admits was “weird”).
Yogarajah, 26, works at a bank during the week and as a telecommunications sales rep on the weekends, helping support his extended family. He says he saved up for three years to buy his car and wouldn’t think of damaging it for $500.
He does, in fact, have a lengthy rap sheet of Highway Traffic Act offences — 26 in four years — but most are for licence plate issues and speeding, and he has no criminal history. He believes police stop him more frequently than others because they are suspicious of a young man of colour driving a nice car.
The YouTube video clearly shows Yogarajah’s licence plate. Since it was posted, web denizens have posted not only his address but his sister’s, where she lives with her three children.
He says he’s spoken to the Toronto police and the RCMP on six occasions about the online threats, but all have said they have no jurisdiction over YouTube and some were dismissive of his safety concerns.
Sham says he wasn’t trying to ruin Yogarajah’s reputation. He only wanted other drivers to be aware that dashboard cameras can be useful for insurance purposes.
He says he believes now that Yogarajah may have accidentally put the car in neutral, and not intentionally reversed, though he still maintains Yogarajah asked for money. “I really don’t want to screw him, or anything.”
Sham’s car damage is minor.
“It would have been solved if he just gave me a chance to talk to him,” says Yogarajah.
“It’s a minor scratch. All this trouble for no reason.”
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