Protect Yourself from Drunk Drivers: What You can Do

There are many ways to protect yourself from drunk drivers. Defensive driving can help save your life if faced with a drunk driver.


I.   Signs of Drunk Driving

II.  Drive Defensively

III. Do Not Do This

IV.  Protect Yourself

V.   Resources

Avoid injury or death from such drivers by being on the lookout for anyone who appears impaired.

I. Signs of drunk driving commonly include any of these.

  • Turning too wide.
  • Driving in the center of the road.
  • Looking drunk (face close to windshield, drinking in the vehicle, etc.).
  • Almost hitting an object or other vehicle.
  • Weaving or zigzagging across the road.
  • Driving on other than a designated roadway.
  • Swerving or abruptly turning.
  • Turning suddenly or illegally.
  • Driving much too slowly.
  • Stopping inappropriately.
  • Drifting or moving in a straight-line at a slight angle to the roadway.
  • Erratic braking.
  • Driving on wrong side of the road.
  • Signaling that is inconsistent with driving actions.
  • Slowly reacting to traffic signals.

II. Drive Defensively

If you suspect that a driver is impaired:

  • protect yourself from drunk driversBe ready to take quick, evasive action.
  • Keep your distance from the suspect vehicle or pull over and let the driver pass you.
  • If the car is headed directly toward you on a collision course, pull to the right, stop, honk your horn and flash your lights.
As quickly as possible, notify low enforcement authorities by dialing 911 or *SP on cell phone.
  • Say that you want to report a suspected drunk driver.
  • Give the exact location (identify road and direction) of the vehicle.
  • Provide a complete description of the vehicle, such as make, model, color, license number, etc.

III. Do Not

  • protect yourself from drunk driversAttempt to stop the vehicle.
  • Disregard any traffic signals in an attempt to keep the driver in view.
  • Attempt to follow if the vehicle is speeding. or if any other hazard exists following the vehi
  • Follow the impaired driver too closely because the car may stop suddenly.
  • Get so focused on following the drunk driver that you begin weaving in the road with the drunk driver.
  • Attempt to detain the drunk driver if they stop.
  • Act in the capacity of any police, fire or medical person unless you are properly trained and authorized to perform that function.
  • Attempt to assist any law enforcement officer while they are apprehending a drunk driver unless requested.

IV. Protect yourself and others

  • Don’t drink and drive and don’t ride with anyone who has had too much to drink.
  • Serve as a designated driver.
  • Always use a safety seat belt.
  • Use four-lane highways whenever possible.
  • Avoid rural roads.
  • Avoid travel after midnight (especially on Fridays and Saturdays).
  • Refer to safety ratings before buying your next vehicle. See vehicle  Safety Ratings.
  • Never use illegal drugs. Using illicit drugs causes a large proportion of traffic fatalities.
  • Never drive when fatigued. Drivers who drift off cause about 72,500 injuries and deaths annually.
  • Don’t use a car phone, put on make-up, comb your hair, or eat while driving.

Protect yourself from drunk drivers by following those tips.

V. Resources on Safe Driving

Healy, J. Safe Driving. Thirroul, NSW: Spinney Press, 2009.

Illinois Secretary of State. A Quick Guide to Safe Driving. Springfield: Secretary of State, 2014.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Safe Driving for Older Adults. Washington: The Administration, 2003.