Having a drink with friends can be a fun way to unwind or celebrate a special occasion. It’s important to take steps in advance to prevent any chance of getting behind the wheel while under the influence. The easiest way to prevent drunk driving accidents is to stop drunk drivers from getting on the road in the first place, but there are also steps you can take once on the road to defend against people driving under the influence.
Steps for Preventing Drinking and Driving
- Assign a designated driver. Volunteer to stay sober and drive intoxicated people home that may otherwise drive themselves. If consuming alcohol, ask for a ride with a non-drinking designated driver.
- Arrange alternate transportation. If friends have been drinking, find an alternate way for them to get home. This may mean arranging a ride home with a sober driver or setting up a cab.
- Take your guests’ keys. If a friend attempts to drive under the influence, take their keys. You could even store them at the beginning of an event to ensure that guests do not drive if they have consumed alcohol.
- Offer food and non-alcoholic drinks. Having something in your stomach and other liquid – such as water and coffee – as spacers between drinks can decrease the likelihood of overdrinking, or at a minimum allow for time to sober up.
- Never pressure guests to drink alcohol. They may feel social pressure to drive despite being impaired, or may not be aware that they are too intoxicated to drive safely.
- Never serve alcohol to minors. Not only is this illegal, but young drivers under the influence may be hesitant to ask their parents or other legal adults to give them a ride for fear of getting in trouble.
Tips for Defending Against Drunk Drivers
Despite your own efforts, other people may not practice responsible, sober driving. You should always drive defensively and practice the following six steps to ensure your own safety:
- Buckle your seatbelt. This is your number one defense against impaired drivers and has been proven to reduce the likelihood of a fatal accident. Insist that your passengers fasten their seatbelts every time.
- Maintain generous following distance. Keep several car lengths between yourself and other drivers to give yourself time to notice erratic driving. If you notice an unsafe driver in your path, keep your vehicle as far away as possible from it, and turn off cruise control if necessary.
- Use extra caution at intersections. Drunk drivers often fail to obey traffic laws. Take your time, look both ways, and yield to oncoming traffic when driving through an intersection.
- Stay off the road late at night and during the holidays. Most drunk driving accidents happen late at night and early in the morning, particularly on weekends, so avoid driving during these times as much as possible. There are also significantly higher risks of impaired drivers during vacations, especially over the summer and on major holidays like New Year’s Eve.
- Participate in police checkpoints. Late-night checkpoints are often set up on busy roadways in an effort to catch impaired drivers. Be respectful to local law enforcement agencies at these checkpoints, and more importantly, do not share their location with friends and family members. Word of mouth warns drunk drivers of these checkpoint locations and defeats the purpose of using them.
- Alert local law enforcement if you witness unsafe behavior. Drivers under the influence often exhibit the following dangerous behaviors:
- Driving after dark without headlights
- Swerving, weaving or drifting
- Making wide or abrupt turns
- Responding slowly to traffic signals
- Erratic speed changes or stopping without cause
- Driving on the wrong side of the road or along the centerline
- Almost striking an object or vehicle
If you have a passenger in your vehicle, have them dial 9-1-1 and provide the location, speed, and details about the dangerous driver. If you witness a dangerous driver while alone, pull over or use your hands-free device. Above all else, do not compromise your own safety. Distance from the offender and continue to obey all traffic laws.
Following these precautionary steps can keep you and others safe from the inherent risk of drunk driving. If an accident does occur, be sure to contact your lawyer immediately.