Part of being a responsible driver is knowing how to spot potentially dangerous situations, including knowing how to spot a drunk driver. While we never want you to take the law into your own hands, knowing how to keep yourself and other drivers safe is an important part of driving.
Recognizing A Drunk Driver
Alcohol affects everyone differently, but here are some common indicators that someone might be driving while impaired:
- Drifting in and out between traffic lanes
- Tailgating; or driving too close to any part of another car
- Quick acceleration or deceleration
- Slow response to traffic signals
- Stopping without cause
- Frequent slowing down, erratic brake tapping, or driving significantly under the speed limit
- Weaving or zig-zagging across the road
- Striking, or almost striking, an object, curb or vehicle
- Using traffic signals inconsistent with driving actions
- Drifting over a center lane marker
- Driving 10 mph slower than the speed limit
- Driving into opposing lanes of traffic
- Turning abruptly or illegally, including pulling out in front of vehicles
- Failure to turn on headlights
What To Do If You Suspect A Driver Is Drunk
If you recognize a combination of these signs, stay as far away from the vehicle as possible. Even the best intentions could cause more harm because you can’t predict the actions of an intoxicated driver. The best thing to do is to stay as far away from the vehicle as possible and call 911.
Give the operator as much detail as possible, including the license plate number, the make and model of the vehicle, and its color. You will also want to provide the location of the vehicle, the direction it’s driving and the reasons why you think the driver is impaired. After you’ve spoken with the 911 operator, let them take care of the situation. Don’t try to get the driver’s attention or try to help — leave it to the professionals.
How to Prevent Drunk Driving
Drunk driving is 100 percent preventable — if you’ve had too much to drink, don’t drive. Part of making safe choices for yourself and others requires you to be honest with yourself. If you plan to go out with your friends and drink, make plans. Enlist a designated driver as part of your group when out, choose public transportation or a rideshare program, or call a sober friend or relative to give you a safe ride.
If there is a time where spontaneous drinking happens and you find yourself in a situation where you shouldn’t drive home, acknowledge that you are not sober, leave your car and find a different way home. Calling a cab or a rideshare service is safer for everyone, and is much less costly than losing your life, causing an accident, or having to pay the fines and fees affiliated with a drunk driving charge (up to $10,000 for a first-time conviction).
If one of your friends is impaired from drinking, give them a ride or help them find a safe way home. Sometimes you might find yourself in a difficult position if a friend doesn’t want to accept they’re not safe to drive. In these instances, it is best to approach your friend in a non-confrontational manner. Calmly explain to them that you care about their safety and well-being, and help them find another way home.