Common Signs of Drunk Drivers and What to Do

Drunk driving accidents continue to cause injuries and deaths each year. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Tennessee experienced 223 traffic fatalities due to alcohol impairment in 2016, which accounted for one-fifth of all traffic-related deaths within the state. Under Tennessee law, anyone with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.08 is too incapacitated to drive. Knowing the common signs of drunk driving and how to react can help you avoid incapacitated drivers, enhancing your safety. Here are the most common signs that a driver is operating under the influence:

Erratic Driving Behavior

Alcohol impacts everyone’s ability to make judgment calls. By the time a person reaches a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more, you’ll notice a difference in how he or she makes decisions, which can seriously impact his or her driving. Be on the lookout for unpredictable or erratic driving patterns, like:

  • Stopping abruptly, for seemingly no reason
  • Swerving in and out of a lane
  • Veering into oncoming traffic
  • Following vehicle too closely
  • Making illegal or fast turns

Slow Reaction Time

Alcohol does more than just a impede driver’s judgment, it also impacts his or her ability to react to hazards or other drivers. Examples of a slower reaction time consistent with alcohol use include:

  • Taking an unnecessary amount of time to slow to a stop at a traffic light
  • Failing to drive when a light turns green
  • Failing to notice a changing traffic signal

Overly Cautious Driving

Many people erroneously assume that drunk drivers are more likely to speed and act recklessly behind the wheel, but often the opposite is true. People often choose to over-compensate when they drink too much alcohol, which leads to overly cautious driving. Cars that are driving too slow for conditions might have an incapacitated driver inside. Another warning sign is a driver veering toward the shoulder when an oncoming car approaches.

What to Do If You Notice a Drunk Driver

Once you know the basic signs of drunk driving, you may be surprised to find out that it’s more common than you might think. Exercising basic caution around drunk drivers is essential to maintaining your safety. If you notice a drunk driver on the road, take the following actions:

  • Put as much distance between yourself and the other driver as possible. If a drunk driver is following you, turn or pull off onto the shoulder and let them pass.
  • Make note of the vehicle’s make, model, color, and license plate number, if possible.
  • Call the local authorities. Report a suspected drunk driver and give them as much information as possible. Tell them what road the drunk driver is travelling on and in which direction.

Do Not:

  • Attempt to stop the drunk driver yourself
  • Disregard any traffic signals to catch a description of the vehicle
  • Follow the vehicle if it’s speeding
  • Follow an impaired driver at a close distance, as abrupt or erratic braking could cause an accident
  • Try to detain a drunk driver yourself if they stop
  • Act in any law enforcement or medical capacity, unless you have the professional licensure or training to do so

Drunk driving claims the lives of hundreds of citizens in Tennessee each year, and hundreds more sustain injuries. Fortunately, you can take some simple steps to reduce your risk of injury. Be aware of the common signs of drunk driving, such as erratic driving behavior and increased reaction time. If you notice a drunk driver on the road, call the police and report their direction to local authorities immediately. Never try to go after a drunk driver yourself – leave the matter to the authorities and put as much distance between you and the drunk driver as possible. If you have been injured by a drunk driver, contact the attorneys at Larry R. Williams, PLLC for a free case evaluation.