You’re on the road. In front of you, a car drifts across the center line a bit, then goes back. All right, you think, it might be a moment of inattention.

Then it happens again. Then the car lurches towards the shoulder and back into the lane. Clearly, the driver isn’t in control of the car. What do you do?

Now that you’ve seen a drunk driver, you’ve got four choices of action:

  • Investigate. Follow for a while, pull up beside the car to get a look at the driver, and see if you can tell what’s going on.
  • Get their attention. Blow your horn, pull up alongside the car and ask them if they’re in trouble.
  • Call 911. Pull over to a safe location and report the driver
  • Ignore it. You don’t want to make someone’s life miserable just because you think they’re breaking the law. What if you’re mistaken?

Observant drivers have done all of these things at one time or another. Yet only one is the right choice if you see a drunk driver – the third one.

Pulling up alongside a suspected drunk driver is a bad idea. If they’re not in full control of their vehicle, you should keep your distance. As for getting their attention –the last thing a drunk driver needs is for his or her attention divided between the road and someone asking them questions through a car window.

If you decide to ignore the incident altogether, you’re not alone – it happens all the time. People shake their heads and drive on, wondering what will become of the driver. Unfortunately, some of those drivers end up dying, or killing someone else.

For the record, here are all the steps if you see a vehicle that appears to be driven by someone impaired:

  1. Pull over or call hands-free. Don’t handle your cellphone while driving.
  2. Report a drunk driver, giving the exact location: route, direction of the vehicle, and and cross streets.
  3. Describe vehicle: make, model, license plate
  4. Let them know why you think the driver is drunk: the manner in which the vehicle was being driven.

From there, it’s up to the police. Don’t worry, you’re not “ruining someone’s life” – if the driver isn’t drunk, a breath or blood test will reveal that. And if he or she is, you might have saved a life – possibly more than one.

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