In the hands of impaired, careless, reckless and angry drivers, a vehicle becomes a dangerous instrument. Unfortunately, too many in Texas and other places mix alcohol or other impairing substances with the power of a vehicle. When you observe bad driving, you may be able to prevent or lessen the impact by learning how to report a drunk driver in Texas.
By keeping the information and tips below in mind should you report a drunk driver or bad driver, you might lead to the apprehension of drunk drivers and keep you and others safe on the highways of the Lone Star State.
What Are the Signs of a Drunk or Unsafe Driver?
Sometimes, the marks of drunk and generally unsafe drivers go hand-in-hand. As for those driving while impaired, be observant of vehicles or their drivers:
- Swerving across the road constantly
- Sudden stops and accelerations
- Turning quickly or without giving a turn signal
- Using the wrong signal for the turn
- Traveling off the road, such as on a sidewalk, yard or grassy surface
- Driving well below the speed limit
- Running a stop sign or stop light
- Going the wrong way on a one-way lane
The time and place where you observe these behaviors, though not necessarily dispositive, may indicate and impaired driver. The fact that you observe the bad driving after dark often arouses suspicion of impaired driving. Naturally, with bars and restaurants open after dark, considerable alcohol consumption and incidents of drunk driving occur in the night.
A study by the Texas Department of Public Safety of alcohol-related driving fatalities in 2017 testifies to this. In that year, 396 of the 910 alcohol-related fatal crashes occurred between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. You can also expect many driving while impaired incidents to occur near restaurants, bars and other establishments where alcohol is served.
Who Should I Call to Report a Drunk Driver?
Understandably, your first instinct when you report unsafe drivers takes you to 911. However, 911 calls are reserved for emergencies. Although a drunk driver is an unsafe driver, such a circumstance does not necessarily rise to the level of an emergency that warrants a call to 911.
In Texas, the Department of Public Safety maintains a toll free number for you to report drunk drivers. That number is 1-800-525-5555. You may also contact police departments and sheriff’s offices in Texas directly. For instance, one police department invites you to use 311 to report unsafe drivers. You might even download a police department app to submit crime reports or unsafe driving tips.
What Information Should I Tell Law Enforcement?
When you report drunk drivers to law enforcement, the information may be used to arrest the offending driver. Yes, you can report anonymously. However, if you choose not to give your name or address, the possibility exists that the accused driver can have the resulting police stop tossed out of court as not being a sufficient reliable tip to justify the stop. To reduce the risk that a judge would invalidate the stop and so that the police can readily find the vehicle involved, you should provide the following information:
- The date and time of the unsafe driving
- The color, make and model of the vehicle
- The license plate number and State in which it was issued
- Any special distinguishing features of the vehicle, such as a bumper sticker, logo, writing for a special design of the wheels or other parts of the vehicle.
- The location where you observed the drunk or unsafe driving. Use an address if you have it or refer to a landmark, such as the name of a restaurant or building.
- The specific actions of the driver or movements of the vehicle. For instance, report that you saw the vehicle swerving, stopping and going suddenly or running a red light.
- A description of the driver, if possible, especially if you were close enough to the vehicle.
A mere statement that you saw someone driving drunk on “Doe Street going south” may not be sufficient to justify stop. A court could consider this unreliable because it lacks specificity of location. Indeed, streets usually go a few blocks and may span several miles. Further, saying that someone is driving drunk, without more, represents just a conclusory remark and likely offers no basis to justify a stop to a court.
What Should I Not Do If I Report Drunk Driving?
Reporting unsafe driving is certainly an admirable exercise of civic duty. However, you undermine the benefits when you drive unsafely yourself. Remember that you are not part of the police force and that you are not trained in apprehending or stopping motorists. So that you do not get in a wreck or find yourself being cited for careless driving:
- Avoid taking photographs while driving. Let the passenger, if any, take the photos.
- Do not speed in an effort to get close to the vehicle, including to get the license plate.
- If possible, pull over in a parking lot to call the appropriate law enforcement agency.
- Once you have called, disengage. It is not wise or necessary to follow a vehicle whose driver you suspect is impaired.
- Do not let yourself become distracted by trying to follow or intercept the vehicle.
Many drivers likely will appreciate your efforts to keep them safe. Reporting drunk or unsafe drivers and your own obedience of the rules of the road are key efforts. If you become the victim of an unsafe or drunk driver, you may need legal representation to pursue your claims, deal with the driver’s insurance company and, if necessary, sue for the injuries you have sustained.