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How to react when you encounter a drunk driver on the road

Drunk driving has been a growing problem across the nation. It is one of the leading causes of injury and death on the road. In Illinois alone, drunk driving kills around 300 people each year.

You’ve probably seen the campaigns to help curb the drunk driving trend—the ads encouraging people to designate a sober driver or call a tax rather than get behind the wheel after a few drinks. But what can other—innocent—drivers on the road do to help avoid a crash with a drunk driver?

Recognize

First, it’s important to be able to identify the driving behaviors associated with drunk driving—as opposed to distracted or aggressive driving. Drunk drivers often:

  • Drive without their headlights on
  • Exhibit difficulty driving in a straight line—veering between lanes or into the shoulder
  • Struggle making tight turns—often bowing out wider than necessary
  • Drive below the speed limit
  • Bump into things
  • Fail to follow basic traffic laws—e.g., driving the wrong direction down the street, stopping at a green light

Respond

If you encounter a drunk driver on the road, it can be exasperating. They can take up a lot of space on the road, drive carelessly and slow down traffic. It can be tempting to speed past the driver to avoid a crash. However, driving alongside or ahead of a drunk driver actually puts you more at risk of a crash. It’s important to stay behind the drunk driver and notify emergency services as quickly as possible. Be sure to report the driver’s vehicle color and type, license plate number, road on which they’re traveling as well as direction of travel.

Drunk driving unnecessarily claims hundreds of lives each year in Illinois. If you’re driving sober, it’s important to stay alert and defensive to drunk drivers to help avoid tragedy.

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