Protect Yourself from Drunk Drivers
by David J. Hanson, Ph.D.
Defensive driving is always wise, but it can be vitally important in saving your life if faced with a drunk or impaired driver. A much higher proportion of drivers are impaired late at night, especially on weekends. Avoid injury or death from such drivers by being on the lookout for anyone impaired by alcohol, drugs, sleep deprivation, inattention, or any other reason. 1 Remember that victims of impaired driving are just as injured or dead whatever the cause of the offender’s impairment.
Common signs of drunk driving include any of the following:
- Turning with a wide radius.
- Straddling the center of the road or lane marker.
- Appearing to be drunk (i.e., eye fixation, face close to windshield, drinking in the vehicle).
- Almost striking an object or other vehicle.
- Weaving or zigzagging across the road.
- Driving on other than a designated roadway.
- Swerving or abruptly turning away from a generally straight course.
- Turning abruptly or illegally.
- Driving slower than 10 mph below speed limit.
- Stopping without cause in a traffic lane.
- Stopping inappropriately (other than in lane).
- Drifting or moving in a straight-line at a slight angle to the roadway.
- Erratic braking.
- Driving into opposing or crossing traffic.
- Signaling that is inconsistent with driving actions.
- Slow response to traffic signals (sudden stop, delayed start).
If you suspect that a driver is drunk, drive very defensively:
- Be prepared to take quick, evasive action.
- Keep your distance from the suspect vehicle or pull over and let the driver pass you.
- If the car is headed directly toward you on a collision course, pull to the right, stop, honk your horn and flash your lights.
As quickly as possible, notify low enforcement authorities (police, sheriff or highway patrol) by dialing 911 or *SP on cell phone:
- Say that you want to report a suspected drunk driver.
- Give the exact location (identify road and direction) of the vehicle.
- Give a complete description of the vehicle, such as make, model, color, license number, etc.
- Do not attempt to stop the vehicle.
- Do not attempt to follow if the vehicle is exceeding the posted limit or if any other hazard may exist due to following the vehicle.
- Do not disregard any traffic signals in an attempt to keep the driver in view.
- Do not follow the impaired driver too closely because the car may stop suddenly.
- Do not get so engrossed in following the drunk driver that you begin weaving in the road with the drunk driver.
- Do not attempt to detain the drunk driver if they stop.
- Do not attempt to act in the capacity of any police, fire or medical person unless you are properly trained and authorized to perform that function.
- Do not attempt to assist any law enforcement officer while they are apprehending a drunk driver unless requested.
Protect yourself and others
- Don't drink and drive and don't ride with anyone who has too much to drink.
- Volunteer to be a designated driver.
- Always use a safety seat belt.
- Use four-lane highways whenever possible.
- Avoid rural roads.
- Avoid travel after midnight (especially on Fridays and Saturdays).
- Choose vehicles with airbags.
- Refer to safety ratings before selecting your next vehicle. See "Buying a Safer Car" (www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/testing/NCAP).
- Never use illegal drugs. Illicit drugs are involved in a large proportion of traffic fatalities.
- Never drive when fatigued. The dangers posed when fatigued are similar to those when intoxicated. Drivers who drift off cause about 72,500 injuries and deaths annually.
- Don't use a car phone, put on make-up, comb your hair, or eat while driving.
- Steer clear of aggressive drivers. Aggressive drivers may be responsible for more deaths than drunk drivers.
Think about it: Impaired driving can be caused by alcohol, prescription drugs, fatigue, anger, inattention/distraction, illegal drugs, dementia, and many other things. However, a person killed by impairment for any one of these reasons is just as dead as one killed by another.
filed under: Drinking and Driving