How to Identify a Drunk Driver So You Can Stay Away
Drunk driving continues to be one of the leading causes of completely preventable deaths in the United States. According to 2018 statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), one person dies due to a drunk driver every 50 minutes, totally to more than 10,500 drunk driving fatalities. That’s roughly 30% of all traffic fatalities recorded in the year.
With so many drunk driving accidents each year, it is unfortunately not a matter of if you will encounter a drunk driver. It is a matter of when. To keep yourself and your passengers as safe as possible when you’re on the road, you should know how to spot the telltale signs of an intoxicated or impaired driver.
10 common indicators of drunk driving are:
- Pumping the brakes: Braking should be a soft, gradual process, as you know. Drunk drivers have a difficult time with motor control of all sorts, including just lowering their foot down on a pedal. If you see a car that is pumping the brakes to come to a halt, then that driver could be drunk.
- Tailgating: The ability to correctly assess distances is one of the first things lost to a drunk driver. As a result, intoxicated drivers may tailgate the car in front of them because they cannot judge how far away it is.
- Drifting between lanes: Lane control becomes a struggle for drunk drivers, too. Any car that is drifting between lanes or nearly merging into oncoming traffic should be kept far away from your own.
- Riding the shoulder: A drunk driver can find it difficult to follow lane markings and inadvertently drive in the shoulder, bike lanes, or adjacent pathways not meant for cars.
- Bouncing off the curb: You might even notice a driver bounce their tire off the curb before returning to their lane. A driver who does that is likely drunk or on their smartphone. In either situation, you should try to hang back to put distance between you and them.
- Lane change with no signal: Everyone has encountered a driver who changes lanes without signaling. It is a serious frustration, but it becomes an even more serious problem when they do it consistently because they are drunk.
- Delayed start: Reaction times in drunk drivers are slowed significantly. You can typically gauge a driver’s reaction time by seeing how long it takes them to accelerate once their light turns green and the intersection is clear. If a driver waits for a noticeable amount of time to begin again, then they could be intoxicated.
- Abrupt turns: Speaking of reaction times, turns often “sneak up” on drunk drivers because they do not have the foresight or reactions required to see the turn coming up. Watch for a driver turning abruptly.
- No headlights at night: There is no excuse for a driver to keep their headlights off during the night. Not only does this limit their visibility, but it also makes their vehicle much more difficult to see for other drivers. A drunk driver might not even realize their headlights are off, though, causing them to cruise around obliviously.
- Slow speeds: When a driver realizes they are too drunk to safely drive, they often do not make the responsible decision to pull over and exit the vehicle until sober. Instead, they try to “hedge their bets” by driving slowly, often 10 miles per hour under the speed limit or slower.
What Should You Do When You Spot a Drunk Driver?
Prioritize your safety when you identify a drunk driver on the road ahead of you. Try to carefully maneuver your position on the road to put distance between you and them. If you can use an alternate route or an upcoming offramp, you may wish to do so.
When it is safe to pull over away from the road, such as in a parking lot, you should call 911 and tell the police you believe you have seen a drunk driver. Tell them as much as you can about the car and its driver. Any characters from the license plate you can remember, its color, and what direction it was headed on what street are crucial bits of information they will want to know.
With some luck, you can help highway patrol officers track down a drunk driver and pull them over before they cause an accident. Your call could save a life!