How to recognize and respond to a drunk driver on the road

Drunk Driving
By Goodwin Como, P.C.

Drunk drivers can pose a huge threat to the safety of others on the road. It’s important to be able to tell the difference between a drunk driver and an unattentive or aggressive driver. In this post, we identify some of the indicators drunk driving and lay out some basic guidelines for how to respond:

What are the signs?

If you see a driver exhibiting any of the following behaviors, they are likely intoxicated:

  • Driving at night without their headlights on
  • Sloppy driving-e.g., bumping into the curb, making unnecessarily wide turns
  • Driving the wrong way down the street
  • Drifting between lanes or into the shoulder
  • Driving well below the speed limit
  • Not maintaining a consistent speed-e.g., frequent braking
  • Stopping at inappropriate places, such as green lights

What should you do?

If you see a drunk driver on the road, first make sure that you and all of your passengers have your seat belts fastened.

Because drunk drivers tend to drive below the speed limit, it may be tempting to try to pass them. However, it’s important to remember that a drunk driver doesn’t have adequate control of their vehicle, and their driving behavior can be erratic-i.e., they may suddenly accelerate. Therefore, positioning yourself alongside or ahead of a drunk driver puts you at risk of collision.

Instead, it’s safest to avoid a drunk driver by staying behind their vehicle. Exit the road when it’s safe to do so, and call 9-1-1 as soon as possible to report the vehicle. Be sure to take note of the vehicle’s color, make and model, the license plate number as well as where the driver was traveling-i.e., road name and direction.

Drunk driving leads to the injury and death of innocent people each day. Knowing how to recognize and avoid a drunk driver is one step to preventing tragedy.