Under Georgia law, any driver with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher cannot lawfully drive. Unfortunately, drivers have no way of knowing the blood alcohol content of the drivers with whom they share the road. Statistics nevertheless make clear that most serious drunk driving accidents are caused by drivers who have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 or higher. Those drivers are seriously impaired.
Some drunk drivers are easy to spot, while others exhibit more subtle warning signs. When a driver suspects that another driver might be under the influence, the safest course of action is to stay as far away from that driver’s vehicle as is possible.
How to Spot an Impaired Driver on the Road
A driver who weaves from one side of the lane to the other or who repeatedly crosses a centerline while driving is probably impaired. Few drivers steer a perfect path down the center of a lane, but when a driver repeatedly comes close to touching both edges of a lane, there is reason to fear that the driver could be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Entering the shoulder or a lane of oncoming traffic should also send a signal that the driver is in no condition to operate a vehicle.
A slow drift from one edge of the lane to another might or might not indicate impairment, but erratic driving is often caused by drunk driving. It is best to stay behind an erratic driver. Trying to pass the driver creates the risk of a collision if the driver veers into the passing lane. If an erratic driver is approaching in an oncoming lane, staying as far to the right as possible offers the best chance of avoiding a collision.
Police officers typically look for less obvious signs of impairment when they decide to stop drivers who are suspected of driving under the influence. Those clues to impairment can help other drivers stay away from potential drunk drivers. Warning signs include:
- The driver speeds up and slows down for no obvious reason
- The driver waits an unusually long time to move after a traffic light turns green
- The driver activates a turn signal but does not turn
- The driver is driving near “bar time” (the time when local taverns are required to close)
A passenger should never accept a ride from a driver who might be impaired. Always make sure that your designated driver has, in fact, consumed no alcohol.
What to Do If You Are the Victim of a Collision with an Impaired Driver
Every collision victim should report the accident to the police immediately. If the victim suspects that the other driver has been drinking, the victim should convey that suspicion to the dispatcher. The police tend to give priority to drunk driving accidents.
When injuries are significant, collision victims should call 911 and ask for an ambulance. When injuries impair the ability to make that call, or if you do not have a cellphone, ask the other driver to call 911. All drivers involved in accidents have a duty to call for help if they are asked to do so.
An impaired driver may be tempted to flee the scene. You have a right to inspect the driver’s license of any driver who was involved in an accident. Don’t wait for the police to arrive if you think the driver will leave. Write down or photograph the license plate number of the car that hit you. Make a similar record of the information on the driver’s license if the driver produces it.
If the driver is belligerent, don’t get into a fight. You should politely encourage the driver to obey the law by remaining at the scene and to share driver’s license information. Otherwise, wait for the police or an ambulance to arrive. Get medical help as soon as you can, and contact a car accident lawyer promptly for additional advice.