How Can I Spot and Avoid a Drunk Driver? 

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spot and avoid drunk driver

A defensive driver anticipates hazardous situations and reacting to dangerous conditions or the reckless behaviors of others. Although you cannot control another driver’s actions, vigilance can help you spot the signs of a drunk driver to avoid them and protect you and your passengers from a car accident

This discussion explores the common signs of impairment, what to do if you encounter a drunk driver, and how to report them to authorities to protect everyone on the road. 

How Alcohol Affects a Person’s Ability to Drive Safely

In Maryland, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. However, the brain and body experience the effects of alcohol at a much lower concentration in ways that make driving not just dangerous, but deadly. 

With just a BAC of 0.02 percent, a driver’s ability to make logical and responsible decisions is impacted. Good judgment is compromised, which can make impaired drivers more willing to speed, tailgate, and take other risks. 

Concentration is also affected. After consuming alcohol, a driver may have trouble shifting their attention between tasks, so they cannot respond to changes in speed, traffic, and pedestrians that may cross their path. 

Small amounts of alcohol also alter a driver’s ability to make sense of traffic signs, signals, and other drivers and pedestrians. Vision, hearing, and reaction time can all be slightly compromised after just one drink. 

Signs of an Impaired Driver

If you are an adult who consumes alcohol on occasion, you are familiar with how it makes you feel, think, and act. For someone who is driving, there are more specific indicators of impairment. 

A driver under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs may exhibit the following behaviors: 

  • Apply the brakes suddenly or erratically 
  • Drink alcohol in the vehicle 
  • Drive in areas not designated for vehicles 
  • Drive the wrong direction 
  • Drive well below the speed limit
  • Drive without their headlights at night 
  • Make sudden or illegal turns 
  • Quickly accelerate or deaccelerate 
  • Respond slowly to traffic lights  
  • Tailgate other drivers 
  • Use their turn signal inconsistently  
  • Veer out of their lane or onto the shoulder 
  • Weave or zig-zag across the road

Drunk drivers are also more likely to collide, or nearly collide, with other vehicles, trees, traffic lights and signs, and pedestrians. 

Steps to Take if You Encounter a Drunk Driver

It can be quite frightening to come across a driver who is obviously impaired by alcohol or drugs or possibly experiencing a health crisis. 

If you suspect another driver is impaired, these are the steps you should take to get them off the road without putting yourself or others in danger, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). 

Back away. The most important thing you can do is stay as far away from the other vehicle as possible. Never attempt to pass a reckless driver or engage with them verbally or physically. If you try to get their attention, you only put you and others on the road at risk. 

Get details of the vehicle. If you can, get a good look at the other vehicle. Make a mental note of the color, model, and the license plate if possible. Observe any distinguishing details on the vehicle. If you have a passenger with a phone, ask them to snap a photo. 

Call 911. Finally, it is important to report anyone you suspect of drunk driving. Call 911 only if you have a hands-free option to make calls. If not, pull over safely before calling for help. Give the dispatcher a description of the vehicle, their location, and any cross streets or landmarks that will help authorities locate them. 

Let the police take over from there. You may have just saved a life.

What if a Friend or Family Member Attempts to Drive Drunk?

The preceding are the steps to take if you come across a drunk driver on the road. What if the impaired person is a friend or a loved one? 

The easiest way to keep anyone from getting behind the wheel after drinking is to plan ahead for a safe and sober ride home. Whether that is a designated driver, a rideshare service, or public transportation, you will not have to worry about making bad decisions under the influence if your ride is ready and waiting when it is time to go home. 

Realistically, it is not always possible to plan ahead. If someone you know is about to drive drunk, here is some guidance on how to stop them and keep them and others safe. 

First, approach them with empathy. Explain that you care about them, and you do not want them to hurt themselves or anyone else. Remember they are impaired, so you should speak a bit more slowly than you usually would. Take the time to explain things in more detail than you might to a sober person. 

Mention alternative ways for them to get home, such as with a sober friend or by calling a taxi or rideshare service. Ask them to sleep over if possible. This may not be an easy conversation to have. The impaired person may feel attacked or shamed. Try to be firm but non-confrontational. Perhaps you can enlist another person to help you and offer some moral support. 

If the impaired person still insists on driving drunk, you should call law enforcement. Although your friend may be angry with you, they will be alive.  

What to Do after a Drunk Driving Accident

If you are involved in a drunk driving accident, do your best to remain calm. Assess yourself for injuries and check others around you. Your first priority should be medical attention. If you can, call 911 for assistance. 

If you witness an accident, again, pull over and dial 911. Stand by until police arrive so you can provide a witness statement. It is important to mention if you suspect a driver was drunk or driving erratically in any way prior to the collision. This will help law enforcement look for signs of impairment and perform sobriety tests.

Can I Sue if I Was Hit by a Drunk Driver?

If the driver who caused your accident was drunk, they should be held accountable both civilly and criminally. That is why it is so important to tell the officer at the scene exactly what you observed. The drunk driver, or their insurance company, is likely to be responsible for the costs of your medical care, lost income, and other damages. 

Although every case and situation are different, settlements for personal injury claims that involve a drunk driver are often higher than typical car accident cases. That is because drunk drivers tend to cause more serious accidents and injuries. Also, when these cases go to trial, juries tend to have less sympathy for individuals who choose to drive drunk. 

Medical care should be your first priority after a drunk driving accident. Once you are safely out of harm’s way and have had time to process your experience, the next step should be a call to an experienced car accident lawyer. Whether you have been charged with DUI, or injured by a DUI driver, a skilled attorney will assess your situation and provide legal guidance to pursue justice after a serious accident. 

Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Provide Strategic Legal Advice for Injured Clients 

If you or a loved one was seriously hurt by a drunk driver, you are not alone. The Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton have more than $250 million in verdicts and settlements for cases just like yours. Our team will be your advocate to obtain full and fair compensation to help you pay for your injuries and other damages. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

We have offices in BaltimoreGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, allowing us to represent clients in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, PikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.