4 Telltale Signs of a Drunk Driver

4 Telltale Signs of a Drunk Driver

Have you ever been driving alongside or behind a car that just makes you feel uncomfortable? Maybe they’re swerving frequently or driving erratically. Whatever it is, you don’t want to be near them, so you hurry and pass or fall way behind.

It’s possible that they were distracted, but they could have been drunk. Either way, you did the right thing by getting away from their dangerous driving.

But even though you weren’t harmed, a drunk driver can still cause serious damage. Look for these four telltale signs that the other person is driving under the influence of a substance. 

1. Inconsistent Driving Patterns

You know a driver is paying attention when they’re staying straight. They’re also either on cruise control or otherwise monitoring an even speed, or they’re staying with the flow of traffic.

A distracted driver, on the other hand, will swerve occasionally. Their speed will vary as they focus on the road, then the distraction. Their driving is dangerous but not consistently erratic.

However, someone who is driving significantly drunk or under the influence of a drug will veer off the road or into another lane, then wildly swerve back. They’ll brake and accelerate seemingly for no reason. 

In the middle of these obvious signs will be other, less apparent signals. Keep an eye out for minor swerving and lack of speed control as your warning, as well as the more visible behaviors.

2. Not Following the Lanes

We’ve all been on those scary roads where it’s hard to tell where the lanes end and begin, especially in construction areas. But if you’re not in one of those driving conditions, and you see a car that isn’t following the lanes, watch out.

Drunk drivers will often straddle lines, driving down the center of the road rather than taking the chance that they’re too far over. They may make a turn and end up on the wrong side of the road altogether. 

When you see someone doing either of these things, there’s a serious problem. They’re either having a medical emergency, or they’re behind the wheel while under the influence.

3. Random Stopping and Sudden Turns

It’s one thing to have the occasional “oh shoot” moment when you realize you’re about to miss your turn. It’s another thing entirely to stop randomly and make sudden, abrupt turns without watching for traffic.

Many of us make repeated driver errors, such as not using our turn signals. While these mistakes account for more than 90% of accidents, as discussed here by JT Legal Group, they don’t always mean the driver is drunk.

But when someone is paying no attention to the effect their stopping and turning has on the cars around them, there’s something going on beyond driver error. They’re dangerously unaware of their actions, and they need to get off the road.

4. Ignoring Traffic Signals

Red means stop, green means go, and yellow means … Well, some of us disagree on that one. 

Still, the road signs are universal, so if you see someone blatantly ignoring that stop or yield sign, it’s not because of ignorance.

Once could be accidental. Twice is your sign that something’s not right, and you either need to find another route or get away from the car that’s ignoring the road signs fast.

5. What to Do if You See a Drunk Driver

While the cops do have lots of tasks to keep them busy, you’re not bothering them if you are pretty sure there’s a drunk driver on the road. They’d rather check out the problem before it becomes a tragic accident.

So you’ve been driving around an erratic vehicle for long enough that you’ve spotted a few of these telltale signs. You know you have to get away from them, but you don’t want to leave them on the road to hurt someone else. What should you do?

First, get as many details about the car as you can keep in your memory or have someone else write them down. They’ll need the make, model, and color of the car to track it, and the license plate number and state will help.

Then, pull off to the side of the road or stay well behind the other vehicle. When you’re in a safe spot, call the authorities to alert them that there’s a dangerous driver on the road. They’ll take it from there, and you can rest assured you did your part to prevent an accident.



People on the road today have a lot more to worry about than drivers in the past did. The predominance of cell phones and electronic devices has led to a spike in distracted driving crashes.

Trying to determine if an erratic vehicle is due to distraction or drunk driving isn’t always easy. 

Look for these four telltale signs. They'll help you to distinguish between someone who needs to pay attention versus a driver that needs to get off the road immediately.

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