What to Do When You See a Drunk Driver on the Road

July 5, 2016 by

Crashes involving drunk drivers result in approximately 28 deaths per day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s a third of all traffic deaths. These fatalities are entirely preventable and take community vigilance to prevent, so it’s important to know how to respond when you encounter an intoxicated driver. Regardless of the circumstances, remember to always try and remain calm.

How to Spot a Drunk Driver

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), an advocacy group that works to eliminate impaired driving, lists a few signs that someone is driving impaired:

  • Erratic driving (tailgating, swerving, or weaving across the road)
  • Quick acceleration
  • Sudden braking
  • Drifting in and out of traffic lanes
  • Driving into opposing traffic
  • Driving without headlights in the dark
  • Slow responses to traffic signals

This is by no means an all-encompassing list. Don’t be afraid to use your best judgement; if you see something suspicious, report it. Be especially vigilant of these behaviors on holidays and around big sporting events.

How to Report a Drunk Driver

If you suspect a drunk driver on the road, make note of the car’s make, model, color, and license plate. Pull over or distance yourself from the car and call 911. Calmly tell the dispatcher you’d like to report a drunk driver. Describe the car, give the exact location of the vehicle (crossroads, travel direction, etc.), and describe the driving behavior. Do not attempt to stop the vehicle or get the driver’s attention as this could cause an accident. Trained professionals (police, EMTs, and firefighters) will know how to appropriately handle the situation.

If You’re Hit by a Drunk Driver

Accidents happen, but they can be especially devastating and dangerous if you are hit by a drunk driver. If this happens to you, call 911. Try to remain calm and let the dispatcher know what happened, where you are, and the type of vehicle you drive. It is best to wait until the police arrive to get out of your vehicle.

If you have to get out of your car, start recording video on your phone in case the drunk driver wants to interact with you. Tell the driver that you wish to wait until the police arrive before anything is said. You are not obligated to interact with the intoxicated driver, but if you do, it’s important to have proof of all interactions. Once the police arrive, take detailed photos of the scene of the accident, the damage to both cars, and any injuries you may have sustained. Be sure to get the drunk driver’s insurance information and a copy of the police report.

You can learn more about what to do after a car accident here.

Reporting the crime of drunk driving is an important step to preventing fatal accidents. Through community action and education — and always having a designated driver — the number of deaths from drunk driving can be greatly reduced.

Hossley & Embry: Personal Injury Attorneys

Should the unfortunate happen and you suffer a personal injury or lose someone you care about because of a drunk driver’s careless actions, an experienced attorney on your side can provide invaluable help. Call the experienced personal injury lawyers of Hossley & Embry at (866) 522-9265 or email newcase@hossleyembry.com today for a free, confidential consultation. We will evaluate the unique circumstances surrounding your case and give you candid advice about your best course of action.


How to spot a drunk driver. (2015). MADD. Retrieved from http://www.madd.org/drunk-driving/how-you-can-help/how-to-spot-a-drunk-driver.html

NHSTA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2015, December). Traffic safety facts: 2014 data. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved from http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812231.pdf

What to do if you see a drunk driver. (2015). MADD. Retrieved from http://www.madd.org/drunk-driving/how-you-can-help/what-to-do-if-you-see-a-drunk.html