How to Spot a Drunk Driver

Industry Observer

Impaired drivers have the potential to cause severe roadway accidents and devastating injuries. Drivers who are under the influence of drugs, alcohol or any other type of distraction, such as using their cell phone or multitask, place themselves and everyone sharing the road with them in danger.

Everyone can do their part in reducing the amount of impaired drivers on the road. Everyone should become familiar with the signs of a drunk driver and report a driver if they act in an erratic and unsafe way.

Below are several telling signs that a driver is impaired or severely distracted and placing other’s safety at risk.
Signs of impaired driving

According to National General, the following driver behaviors can be a strong indication that a driver is impaired:

  • Accelerating or slowing down abruptly
  • Swerving
  • Failing to turn on headlights at night
  • Sudden or Illegal turning
  • Drifting
  • Making an unusually wide turn
  • Nearly striking other cars or objects
  • Sudden or erratic braking
  • Driving with the face close to the windshield
  • Drinking alcohol in the vehicle
  • Driving much slower than the posted speed limit
  • Tailgating
  • Driving in the middle of the road, or with the left tires on the centerline
  • Responding slowly to traffic signals

Insight from DUI Experts

Police officers are very good at noticing driver behaviors that are dead giveaways of an intoxicated driver. Through many years dealing with DUI driving accidents, Louisville car accident attorney Ethan Manning shares how law enforcement detects a drunk driver on the road, in DUI checkpoints and once they’ve been pulled over.

According to Ethan, visual indicators of an intoxicated driver include slurred speech, responding slowly to questions, needing an officer to repeat questions or failing to answer questions properly or clearly. Visibly poor motor skills are also an indicator that a motorists is intoxicated. This includes difficulty getting out of their vehicle, stumbling out of a car, leaning on objects to stay balances, and fumbling with documents and information.

What to do if you see a Drunk Driver

Spotting a drunk driver can be extremely frustrated, and even enraging if you’ve been in a previous accident involving an impaired motorist. There are ways you can handle seeing a drunk driver that can ensure your safety, while helping get the driver off the road as soon as possible.

If you suspect a driver is intoxicated, do the following:

  • Take note of the car's color make and model if you can
  • If you're with a passanger, ask them to make a note of their license plate number
  • Pull over and call 9-1-1
  • Calmly explain to the dispatcher that you would like to report a drunk driver.
  • Share the driver's vehicle information you were able to gather and exact location of where you saw them (including freeway exits, direction traveling and more) and describe driving behavior

What NOT to do if you spot a DUI driver

  • Never try to follow them
  • Never try to interfere with the vehicle
  • Never try to detain the driver if the vehicle stops
  • Never make any illegal turns or break any laws to keep the vehicle in view



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