Fighting against drunk driving doesn’t have to be left up to the authorities. As a safe driver, you can choose to stand up against this frightening epidemic by learning how to spot drunk drivers and having the courage to report them.
Intoxicated drivers cause more accidents each year than any other drivers on the road today, many of which result in the deaths of innocent people. According to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) website, one person is injured every minute from an alcohol-related accident.
- 1 in 3 people will be involved in an alcohol-related accident in their lifetime.
- 50 – 75% of convicted drunk drivers will keep driving despite having their license suspended.
- 1 in 5 teenagers binge drink.
- Teen alcohol use kills 6,000 people every year, which is more than all illegal drugs combined.
- Children and teens that start drinking young are 7 times more likely to be in an alcohol-related car crash.
- Drunk driving costs each adult citizen $500 per year in damages.
- 36 people in the United States die every day from drunk-driving accidents
- These casualties and injuries can be prevented.
Effects of Alcohol on the Brain
Alcohol affects the area of the brain involved in motor function—the cerebellum. Errors in the front parietal cortex occur, which interrupts decision-making processes. Drinking to the point of drunkenness over a long period of time can cause severe, irreversible damages, including the following:
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Memory loss
- Difficulty walking
- Slowed reaction times
- Thiamine deficiency
- Liver disease
How to Spot a Drunk Driver
You may initially suspect a drunk driver by the way their vehicle weaves back and forth across the road, but there are plenty of other indicators that you have encountered an inebriated driver:
- Making an unnecessary wide turn
- Driving down the center line
- Slow reactions to changing traffic lights
- Erratic braking
- Inconsistent or inaccurate signaling
- Driving 10 mph slower than the speed limit
- Inappropriate stopping
- Illegal or last-minute turns
- Drifting into oncoming traffic
- Driving at night or in the early morning without headlights
- Appearing to be drunk (i.e., face close to the windshield, actual drinking while driving, etc.)
What You Should Do
- Maintain a safe distance from the suspected drunk driver.
- Make a mental note of the vehicle including the make, model, color, license plate number, and any other descriptive characteristics.
- Stop as soon as possible and call the police by dialing 911, your local emergency or highway patrol number, or 1-800-28DRUNK.
- Tell them you are calling to report a suspected drunk driver.
- Provide a complete description of the vehicle, the driver, and the manner in which the vehicle was being driven.
- Report the incident and license plate number to online organizations or contact a 24-hour emergency hotline like 1-877-MADD-HELP for further guidance and emotional support.
What Not to Do
- Never try to pass a suspected drunk driver.
- Do not signal for the vehicle to stop or distract the suspected drunk driver in any other way.
- Do not attempt to detain or confront the driver.
- Do not follow the car too closely, even if you are trying to read the license plate. A drunk driver may stop abruptly and you may end up in an accident.
- Do not disregard traffic signals, stop signs, or speed limits just to keep up with a drunk driver.
- Do not call the police without stopping your own vehicle first. You may cause an accident yourself.
- If police arrive while you are on the scene, do not attempt to assist an officer unless requested.
- Do not let a friend or family member drive drunk.
Stop Drunk Driving Before it Begins
Most people who drive drunk didn’t start out drinking alone. Almost every intoxicated driver has left a scene that involved social drinking. This means that there most likely were people who could have stepped in to prevent the driver from getting behind the wheel.
50,000 lives have been saved, and thousands more spared from injury thanks to designated drivers. 73,000,000 Americans serve as designated drivers or are driven home by one each year.
What is a Designated Driver?
A designated driver is someone who chooses to abstain from alcohol during a social event so that he or she can drive everyone home safely. Most establishments will even provide free non-alcoholic beverages to designated drivers. These responsible drivers help their friends and family:
- Avoid accidents
- Prevent injury and fatalities
- Stay out of jail
- Avoid having their licenses revoked
- Avoid fines
Make a Difference
Whether you report a suspected drunk driver or serve as a designated driver, you are making a difference in the lives of countless people by cutting down the risk of unnecessary injury and even death. Do the responsible thing and take action.