Say you’re out on the road this holiday season and you spot one or more of the telltale signs of a drunk or distracted driver – swerving, weaving in between lanes, driving too fast or too slow, tailgating, braking erratically, ignoring traffic signs, etc. This makes you nervous, as it would for any safe driver. So what, if anything, should you do?
Statistics show in 2015, there were more than 390,000 injuries and 3,400 fatalities attributed to distracted driving in the U.S., while alcohol-impaired drivers caused 10,265 fatalities and over 290,000 injuries . Car accidents spike over the winter holidays when weather conditions can be dangerous, holiday travel means roads are more congested, and alcohol consumption increases. The pervasiveness of these incidents means that when you suspect another driver of being impaired by alcohol or distraction, you have an obligation to report them.
There are several things you can do to take precaution:
Get out of the way. If you witness erratic driving, before you take any other steps, make sure you are out of the car’s danger zone. Put a safe distance between you and the other car, either by slowing down to let them pass or pulling ahead. Do not tail the other car to collect information, or attempt to stop the driver.
Take note of important information. If you can do so while maintaining a safe distance, take note of the make, model, license plate number, and any other distinctive features of the car, driver, and passengers. If you have a passenger in your car, ask them to record the information.
If you feel you or others are in danger, call 9-1-1. Report a dangerous situation by calling 9-1-1 . Share the information you’ve gathered about the other driver, your location and direction of travel, citing the specific behavior you’ve witnessed (i.e. swerving, excessive speed). Have your passenger make this call, or pull over to use the phone if you are alone.
For more minor incidents, report to a non-emergency number. If you don’t feel the behavior endangers others, but you are still concerned, you can report the driver to your local police non-emergency number. Some states have numbers designated for reporting dangerous drivers. In New Jersey, unless the situation is life-threatening, citizens are asked to report drunk or distracted drivers to the #77 Dangerous Driver System . In Colorado, motorists can dial *277 to report aggressive driving that does not put other drivers at risk. Alternatively, local city or police departments often have an online form for reporting reckless driving.
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