Despite extensive efforts to eliminate drinking and driving, alcohol contributes to thousands of accidents a day. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, over 10,000 people die from drunk driving accidents annually. What’s even worse is that these deaths are completely preventable if people would make responsible drinking decisions.
If you recognize a drunk driver on the road, it’s important that you do everything you can to ensure your safety. If possible, you should also take steps to protect others by contacting law enforcement. Follow the steps outlined in our checklist, and you’ll be prepared the next time you encounter a drunk driver on the road.
Know the Signs of a Drunk Driver
Before you can take appropriate steps, you should be reasonably sure that the driver is operating their vehicle under the influence. Distracted and tired driving can easily lead to poor reaction times and wavering on the road. Instead of jumping to conclusions, look out for the signs of a drunk driver:
- Driving 10 or more mph below the speed limit
- Drifting in and out of traffic
- Driving over lane markers
- Driving off the edge of the road
- Not turning on headlights when appropriate
- Almost colliding with obstacles and other vehicles
- Using turn signals that don’t match actions
- Weaving across the road
- Quick changes of speed
- Illegal or abrupt turns
- Slow responses to traffic signals
- Consistent swerving
When a driver is performing a combination of these signs, then there’s a very strong chance that he or she is driving under the influence. From there, you should start to take the appropriate steps.
Actions to Take Upon Noticing a Drunk Driver
Intoxicated drivers are unsafe by definition. They don’t have enough control of themselves to make smart decisions. That means you, as the sober driver, should do everything you can to prioritize your safety. This includes staying as far away from the vehicle as possible, not trying to pass it, and watching out for any sudden changes in the driver’s behavior so that you can react safely.
Never try to speed past a drunk driver or drive too close to them. If the driver changes their course, you may be the one caught in a car accident. It’s best to stay a safe distance behind so that you know where the vehicle is.
If possible, you should try to record the license plate number and vehicle details. However, only do this if you can stay safe while doing so. While it’s important to learn what you can about the vehicle, you shouldn’t put yourself at risk. If you have passengers with you, have them record the vehicle information while you focus on staying safe.
If you do get the vehicle’s information, you should pull over and dial 911. Give the dispatcher the vehicle information and driver behavior, as well as the location you noticed it and which way the vehicle was headed. With all these details, the police can take action. Your next best step is to continue to your destination.
Steps You Shouldn’t Take
Never attempt to pull the driver over yourself. He or she may be armed or dangerous in some other way. It is also possible that the driver is not drunk. The police need to intervene so they can determine the exact circumstances and they are the only ones who have the equipment needed to determine if the driver is intoxicated. So, once you have notified the police and given them all the information you’ve gathered, your job is done.
Drunk drivers are easily the leading cause of fatal car accidents. Drunk driving is going to continue to occur, so you should stay prepared. When you recognize the signs of drunk driving, take the necessary steps to inform the authorities so that they can do their job to keep the roads safe.