How to Spot Warning Signs of a Drunk Driver

Drunk driving is a dangerous and potentially deadly behavior that can have serious consequences. Being vigilant and recognizing the signs of drunk driving can be lifesaving. The ability to identify these signs of drunk driving not only enhances your safety but also enables you to take proactive measures, such as alerting law enforcement. We will explore several signs that are commonly associated with impaired driving and offer guidance on how to respond.

Driving under the influence is responsible for countless accidents, injuries, and fatalities each year. By familiarizing yourself with the signs of drunk driving, you can play an active role in preventing these tragic outcomes.

Erratic Lane Changes and Swerving

Drunk Driver

One of the most noticeable signs of drunk driving is a vehicle making erratic lane changes. An impaired driver often has difficulty staying in one lane, leading to sudden and unexpected swerves. This erratic behavior is not only a sign of drunk driving but also a serious risk to other motorists. If you observe a driver continuously changing lanes without signaling, it’s a strong indicator that the driver may be under the influence of alcohol.

The tendency to swerve or drift, sometimes narrowly avoiding a collision, is a key sign of drunk driving. This can be particularly dangerous at high speeds or on crowded roadways. It’s essential to keep a safe distance from any vehicle exhibiting such unpredictable behavior.

Excessive Speed or Slow Driving

Impaired drivers may also show signs of drunk driving through their inconsistent speed. Some individuals under the influence may drive significantly over the speed limit due to altered perception, while others may operate their vehicle unusually slow, unaware of their reduced speed. Both of these extremes can be alarming signs of drunk driving and pose distinct hazards on the road.

It’s critical for other drivers to stay alert to these variations in speed. Excessive speed increases the chance of a severe accident while driving too slowly can cause confusion and disrupt the flow of traffic, leading to potential collisions.

Frequent Braking or Stopping

Another common sign of drunk driving is frequent and unnecessary braking. An impaired driver may misjudge distances or react unpredictably to normal traffic signals, resulting in abrupt stops that can endanger trailing vehicles. If you observe a car that brakes erratically, it’s advisable to maintain a considerable distance to avoid a rear-end collision.

These instances of sudden stopping are not only signs of drunk driving but also indicators that the driver is not in full control of their faculties. Recognizing this behavior can prompt you to take measures such as changing lanes or increasing your following distance to stay safe.

Drifting or Straddling Lane Markings

Drifting or straddling between lane markings is a visible sign of drunk driving. When a vehicle cannot maintain a straight path within its lane, it is often because the driver’s attention and coordination are impaired by alcohol. This can lead to side-swiping accidents or head-on collisions if the driver veers into oncoming traffic.

Observing a vehicle that repeatedly drifts or straddles the lines should raise immediate concern. It’s essential to stay away from such drivers and alert the authorities if it’s safe to do so.

Tailgating and Inconsistent Following Distance

A driver who follows too closely or alternates between distant and close following distances could be displaying signs of drunk driving. Due to impaired judgment, a drunk driver may not be able to accurately judge the distance between vehicles, leading to dangerous tailgating. In some cases, the driver may overcompensate by leaving an unusually large gap.

These variations in following distance are clear signs of drunk driving and warrant caution. It’s important to monitor such a vehicle from a safe distance and be prepared for unpredictable maneuvers.

Inconsistent Signaling and Turning

Impaired drivers often struggle with basic driving tasks such as signaling and making proper turns. This can result in signs of drunk driving like neglected turn signals, signaling the wrong way, or abrupt turns without warning. These actions not only reveal a driver’s impaired state but also create confusion and danger on the road.

When you notice a vehicle exhibiting these signs of drunk driving, it’s best to stay behind the vehicle at a safe distance and avoid overtaking, as their next move can be unpredictable.


Every driver on the road has a responsibility to remain alert to the signs of drunk driving. By being attentive and recognizing these behaviors, you contribute to the safety of all road users. When you spot signs of drunk driving, it’s crucial to keep your distance from the erratic driver and, when it’s safe, report the vehicle to the authorities. Your quick thinking could prevent a potentially catastrophic incident.

Townes and Woods offer legal advice for individuals affected by drunk driving. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our office.