Drunk drivers cause approximately 40% of fatal accidents, with over 25,000 people injured in alcohol-related crashes every year. But during the holidays, those statistics get alarmingly worse. As accident lawyers, we’re acutely aware of the increase. Here is a look at holiday drunk driving statistics, how to spot drunk drivers during the holidays, and what to do when you see them.
Holiday Drunk Driving Statistics
The top six American holidays with the highest number of drunk driving incidents include St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day, Labor Day weekend, the day before Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. But as we approach this year’s winter holidays, here is a look at their average number of annual fatal car crashes.
- Thanksgiving = 405 fatal car crashes/year
- Christmas Day = 337 fatal car crashes/year
- New Year’s Day = 344 fatal car crashes/year
Over 50 million Americans travel for Thanksgiving every year and even more travel for Christmas. Of all 50 states, South Carolina ranks number ten for the most dangerous state for drunk driving during the holidays.
Ways to Spot a Drunk Driver During the Holidays
The easiest way to spot a drunk driver is to use the same methods of law enforcement. Police look for signs of impairment to predict whether a driver is likely to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher by looking for visual cues under the following five categories compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
- Visual Signs
- Judgment Problems
- Vigilance Difficulties
- Speed and Braking Difficulties
- Lane Position Troubles
Here is a breakdown of specific drunk driving behaviors to look for under the visual cue categories above.
Visual signs are the most common indicators of drunk drivers. The following hints and visual observations can help you determine if someone is driving while intoxicated.
- Drinking right before entering their vehicle
- Drinking alcohol within their vehicle or have an open container of alcohol in their vehicle
- Leaning close to the windshield or on other objects
- Slurring their speech
- Slow responses to questions or failure to aptly answer questions
- Odor of alcohol
- Poor motor skills
- Difficulty getting out of their vehicle
While driving a vehicle, drivers are responsible for making a continuous set of judgment calls to maintain safety on the roads. They must have a complete awareness of their surroundings and have the ability to gauge speed, distance, and other traffic factors properly. But when under the influence of alcohol or other impairing substances, a driver’s judgment diminishes, thereby resulting in their more flippant, risky, or unconscious decisions while driving. Here is a list of driving judgment problems to spot a drunk driver.
- Making sudden or illegal turns
- Unsafe or erratic lane changes
- Driving off the road
- Driving in the improper lane
- Look of impairment, such as a drooping head falling to one side
Having driving privileges comes with the responsibility to be aware of driving conditions. Traffic conditions, traffic control signs, and other vehicles’ motion are just some factors that drivers need to be mindful of while on the road. But those who drink and drive will lack that awareness, thereby increasing the likelihood of impairment. Here is a list of vigilance difficulties a drunk driver may have.
- Running red lights or stopping at green ones
- Driving on the wrong side of the road or in the wrong direction
- Driving without headlights on in the dark
- Responding slowly to traffic control signs and signals
- Stopping or slowing down abruptly for no apparent cause
- Using the wrong turn signal when turning or lane-changing
Speed and Braking Difficulties
Like vigilance difficulties, impaired drivers often have challenges with judging when to speed up and when to slow down, and what safe distance to keep while driving. Common speeding and braking difficulties to look for include:
- Driving unusually slowly
- Sudden braking
- Accelerating quickly
- Stopping at an irregular angle
- Stopping too far from the curb or well before/beyond a limit line (i.e., a crosswalk)
- Failure to maintain an even speed
- Driving far below the speed limit
Lane Position Trouble
Spotting and staying within driving lanes can be problematic for drunk drivers. Maintaining a consistent and stead position is nearly impossible for impaired drivers. Some other lane positions trouble they may have consist of:
- Near misses or collisions
- Making unusually wide turns
- Swerving, drifting, or weaving
- Straddling the side of the road or the centerline
Now that you know how to spot a drunk driver, what should you do when you see one?
What to Do When You Spot a Drunk Driver
The most important thing to do when you spot a drunk driver is to stay safe. Make a note of the car’s make, model, license plate, color, bumper stickers, and any apparent damage.
Call 911 when it is safe. You can call *HP (*47) in South Carolina, but only from a cell phone.
Make a note of the time and location, including the crossroad and travel direction. Describe the motorist’s driving behavior.
Law enforcement recommends you avoid stopping or alerting the driver and to stay as far away from their vehicle as you possibly can.
Are you the victim of a drunk driver? Do you need legal assistance with a drunk driving incident? Connell Law Firm is here to help. Our experienced attorneys will offer you a free consultation to review your case and help you to determine the legal route you need to take regarding your circumstances. Contact us today!