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How to Recognize an Impaired Driver


Though teens cannot legally drink alcohol, teen drivers still have to contend with intoxicated drivers on the road. Summer or holiday breaks are a dangerous time for teen drivers because they spend more time on the road, where they may encounter impaired drivers.

Risk factors for teens on the road in summer include:
  • Due to their limited driving experience, teens often have difficulty handling emergency situations; for example, they might try to pass a driver who keeps drifting into their lane.
  • Teens may have trouble recognizing when other drivers might be impaired and neglect to allow an adequate space cushion between their vehicle and the vehicles of those drivers.
  • Teens often have poor impulse control, which could lead them into playing traffic games with aggressive or impaired drivers, such as racing from one traffic light to another.

Here are some tips on how to recognize an impaired driver:
  • their vehicle is straddling two lanes
  • they have a close call, such as nearly hitting a parked car
  • they make wide, clumsy turns
  • they are traveling well below the speed limit (10 mph or more)
  • they are following too closely
  • they are braking erratically or stopping at inappropriate places (such as at an intersection with a green traffic light)
  • their headlights aren't on at night, or they leave their turn signal on for a prolonged time

Teens can use defensive driving techniques for safe driving:

  • Always wear your safety belt. This is your best defense against impaired drivers.
  • Obey the speed limit. Driving too fast means drivers have less space to respond to hazards.
  • Avoid being distracted from watching the road by noisy passengers, loud music, or using a cell phone.
  • Maintain an adequate space cushion on all sides between your vehicle and other vehicles. If you notice someone driving erratically, increase your space cushion.
  • Observe the behavior of other drivers, but keep your eyes moving; don't get so distracted that you miss another hazard.

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