Unsafe drivers may seem like a simple annoyance as they impede traffic, swerve, tailgate, or speed faster than conditions allow, but they're actually one of the biggest threats to your safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administratio
n (NHTSA) reports that one of the main reasons we've seen a rise in traffic fatalities since 2014 is because of the increase of unsafe behaviors by drivers, including texting, speeding, driving drunk, or driving with inadequate rest.1
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) reports that more than 1,000 people are injured and eight people are killed each day in the U.S. due to distracted drivers.2How to Spot an Unsafe or Impaired Driver
For most people, you're going to know unsafe driving when you see it. Still, some key behaviors4,5
you'll see when someone is under the influence, too tired to drive, or distracted are:
How to Avoid an Unsafe Driver
- Inability to maintain a consistent speed or lane position.
- Staying at a stop light or stop sign too long.
- Going much faster or much slower than the flow of traffic or the posted speed limit.
- Weaving in and out of traffic.
No matter the reason someone is driving in an unsafe manner, you can reduce the risk they pose to you by following these steps:
How to Report an Unsafe Driver
- Check intersections before entering them: Distracted or impaired drivers may miss the fact that their light has turned red. If you enter an intersection as soon as your light turns green, you'll be right in their crosshairs. Check oncoming traffic quickly before entering an intersection
- Assume they can't see you: No matter if the unsafe driver you see is under the influence, distracted or drowsy, assume that they can't see you, and won't get out of your way. It's up to you to avoid them.
- Give unsafe drivers space: Try to maximize the space between you and an unsafe driver. That can mean getting out of their way, slowing down and letting them pass, or passing and getting ahead of them when it's safe to do so.
- Buckle up and make sure your passengers do, too: Sometimes, you're just not going to be able to avoid an unsafe driver. Always buckle your seatbelt and making sure everyone in your car is wearing their seatbelt as well. This can reduce your risk of injury or death should a collision become unavoidable.
- Be self-aware. Realize that you may also be guilty of these behaviors. The National Safety Council reports that while 66 percent of drivers say they've felt unsafe because another driver was distracted, just 25 percent say their own distracted driving has put others at risk.3 If you spot these behaviors in your own driving, pull over to a safe spot and rest before going back on the road.
When you encounter an impaired or distracted driver, your priority should be getting out of their way. If you can safely report their behavior, however, you may be able to keep others safe as well.4,5
- Do it safely: It might be tempting to take out your phone and start recording a bad driver, but doing so just distracts you and limits your ability to drive safely. Instead, do your best to remember the car's color, make, model and license plate, as well as your location and the direction they're traveling. If you have a passenger, they can write the info down - don’t try to do it yourself. Just get the best description you can.
- Don’t confront bad drivers: If you try to challenge an unsafe driver, it could escalate the situation and increase your risk of a crash. Stay calm and concentrate on getting a good description of the vehicle that you can provide to the authorities.
- Call the police: When it's safe to do so, call 911 and give a description of the unsafe vehicle, its location and the direction it's traveling in. Also make sure you tell the dispatcher the unsafe behavior you observed - don’t just say the driver was texting, tell them about the driver's swerving, near misses or other unsafe actions.
Unfortunately, distracted drivers don't seem to be going anywhere. If anything, the distractions may be getting worse. But if you know how to look out for those drivers and the telltale signs of erratic driving behavior, you can better avoid them on the roads.