How to Recognize and Avoid Drunk Driving Behaviors This Labor Day

Although the Labor Day holiday should be all about savoring the end of summer with friends and family, it has an unfortunate dark side. The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day has been referred to as the “100 Deadliest Days” for teenaged drivers, as nine out of the 10 most dangerous days for youth on U.S. roads happen between the months of May and August. One of the biggest reasons for this is increased alcohol consumption — and that means it’s not only drivers in their teens who need to be concerned; everyone operating or riding in a vehicle needs to take the threat of drunken driving seriously. That’s why it’s so important to recognize these behaviors in others and do everything in your control to discourage them.

Every day, people drive drunk more than 300,000 times. And while fewer than 4,000 are arrested, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that someone dies as a result of alcohol-impaired driving every 48 minutes. The CDC also reports that nearly one-third of all car accidents can be attributed to impaired driving. That’s essentially backed up by data that shows that the three most common causes of motor vehicle crashes are drunk driving, distracted driving, and speeding.

Even if you have resolved never to engage in these behaviors yourself, that doesn’t mean you’re safe. After all, a drunk driver could come seemingly out of nowhere and cause massive destruction in their path. But if you’re able to stop those you know from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated and can detect the possible signs of drunken driving when you’re out on the road, you can do your part to prevent a possibly fatal disaster.

Police officers will regularly employ roadside safety checks (also known as DUI checkpoints) during the times of year that are particularly tempting for drunk drivers. They usually occur around Thanksgiving, the winter holidays, and Independence Day, though many local ordinances have cracked down on drunk driving on virtually any major holiday. They’ll also look for the most obvious signs of intoxicated driving, which include speeding, driving without headlights on, and improper lane changes. If you notice these signs in other drivers around you, they could indicate something is amiss.

But there are other indicators to look for as well. Sudden or extremely wide turns, erratic braking, drifting or swerving, tailgating, braking well before a red light, driving while sitting close to the windshield, and driving below the speed limit can all point to intoxication while driving. Of course, driving on the incorrect side of the road or nearly hitting objects or other vehicles are big red flags, too.

If you encounter a motorist that makes you think something’s wrong, you might be inclined to speed around them just to get away. But it’s far safer to remain behind their vehicle and maintain a safe distance. If you can safely write down at least part of their license plate or commit it to memory, law enforcement officers suggest you do so and pull over in a safe spot to call the police to alert them.

Whether or not you actually spot a drunk driver, you can take steps to protect yourself. For example, you should use extra caution at intersections. While you shouldn’t dawdle while passing through one, you should take your time and keep an eye out for drivers who fail to stop or yield. Make it a rule to always wear your seatbelt; not only is it the law, but it will drastically decrease your chances of sustaining a fatal injury if you’re involved in a crash. If you can, avoid driving late at night on the weekends, as these are more popular times for intoxicated drivers to be out. And if you encounter a check-point, do police a favor by not sharing that information with anyone else. While you might simply be trying to save time for your loved ones, you could be making it much harder for police to catch intoxicated drivers if the location of the check-point becomes well-known.

And what if you’re worried about someone you know driving while under the influence? You can always offer to be the designated driver or to call for a ride. While there are 130,000 limos currently in service across the nation, ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft have made it even easier and more affordable to forgo drunken driving in favor of a safe way to get home. You could even instate a policy of taking someone’s keys if they seem resistant to other ideas. And above all, never get into a vehicle with someone who has been drinking, even if they say they’re okay to drive; since consumption of alcohol impairs judgment, they really aren’t in a position to make this determination themselves.

On this holiday — and at any other time of year — you can protect yourself and others by watching out for the signs of drunk driving and taking steps to prevent these behaviors from occurring whenever you can. While it won’t keep every intoxicated motorist off the road, it could make all the difference in your own life.

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