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cmosdes
07-19-2011, 02:53 PM
The situation:

You are alone in your car and you spot an obvious drunk driver. You have a cell phone (let's make it hand held without a speaker phone option just to make it more interesting).

What do you do?

We all know the risks of using your cell phone while driving. This (http://www.distraction.gov/research/PDF-Files/Comparison-of-CellPhone-Driver-Drunk-Driver.pdf) (warning PDF!) says cell phone drivers are at least as dangerous as drivers at the legal limit. If you use your cell to call the police you are then making yourself as big a risk as the drunk driver, now doubling the chances of an accident on that road.

This (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=616801) thread is about one individual who did get a drunk driver arrested and prosecuted while using his cell phone to alert the police.

I can see an argument to be made that if you are calling in a drunk driver it would be a 1 time thing or an emergency situation whereas the drunk driver is likely to be habitual. But is the risk worth following the drunk driver? Would it be better to get the pertinent information then pull over and call the police safely? In the thread cited above, that would likely mean the driver would get away as the police took 25 minutes to get him pulled over. But that also means the OP was driving for 25 minutes on their cell phone.

Chronos
07-19-2011, 02:58 PM
Pull over to the side of the road and make the call. What's the difficult part of this?

Whack-a-Mole
07-19-2011, 02:59 PM
Pull over and call the police. Give them the tag number, description of the vehicle and street and direction the car was going.

sachertorte
07-19-2011, 03:03 PM
I assert without proof that being on the phone to update the police and keep an eye on the car in front of you is way different than being on the phone and discussing mundane conversation about stuff unrelated to driving.
In other words, the driver's attention is on the car in front of him, not on the conversation. Sounds safe to me. I'm fine with this.

cmosdes
07-19-2011, 03:16 PM
The difficult part is what I said in the OP. There is a non-zero chance the drunk driver will get away. Is the risk of driving on a cell worth the risk of the drunk driver getting away.

sachertorte would seem to think it is worth the risk to stay on a cell.

Marley23
07-19-2011, 03:20 PM
I agree this is not difficult. You call it in. Even if you can't pull over and call, you're still off the phone in a couple of minutes. The drunk driver is a risk to other drivers as long as he's on the road.

The_Peyote_Coyote
07-19-2011, 03:23 PM
I agree with the other posters. Memorize the number, pull over, and call the police. I've done this myself with a couple of people.

cmosdes
07-19-2011, 03:26 PM
For those saying this is not difficult, would you say the driving in the linked thread did the wrong thing?

redtail23
07-19-2011, 03:27 PM
It would depend on the context.

I hate cell phone drivers. I don't use my cell in the car. But, if there was no other traffic and I thought it was necessary, I might make an exception for this. It wouldn't take long, and would be focused on the actual situation around me rather than general conversation, which I think would be less distracting (as sachertorte said.

Otherwise, I'd get as much info as possible, pull over & call.

Contrapuntal
07-19-2011, 03:28 PM
The difficult part is what I said in the OP. There is a non-zero chance the drunk driver will get away. Is the risk of driving on a cell worth the risk of the drunk driver getting away. No, the question is this : Which is more likely to cause serious injury, driving drunk, or making a two minute phone call while your attention is riveted on the road ahead? Assuming that for some reason you cannot pull over and call, as the posters above suggested, which is the obvious solution.

If you know that someone is driving drunk, always contact the authorities, even if it's your dear old sainted Mom behind the wheel.

cmosdes
07-19-2011, 03:45 PM
No, the question is this : Which is more likely to cause serious injury, driving drunk, or making a two minute phone call while your attention is riveted on the road ahead? Assuming that for some reason you cannot pull over and call, as the posters above suggested, which is the obvious solution.

If you know that someone is driving drunk, always contact the authorities, even if it's your dear old sainted Mom behind the wheel.

In the case of the linked thread, it was not a two minute phone call, so your rephrasing of my question doesn't really apply. My original question stands.

The debate isn't whether to call or not, the debate is whether or not to stay on the line for extended period of time.

Contrapuntal
07-19-2011, 03:49 PM
In the case of the linked thread, it was not a two minute phone call, so your rephrasing of my question doesn't really apply. My original question stands.

The debate isn't whether to call or not, the debate is whether or not to stay on the line for extended period of time.The author of that thread did not address it directly in the OP, but it seems clear that he had the tacit approval of the police to stay on the phone for 25 minutes. I'll bow to their superior experience in those situations.

TriPolar
07-19-2011, 04:02 PM
How do you define an obvious drunk driver?

Holding a bottle of a liquor? Driving in some dangerous manner? Or playing the radio too loud?

If someone is a danger on the road for a good reason, pull over, and make a call.

It's kind of hard to find the circumstances where you should follow such a person to aid the police once you have a license plate number. They would be endangering you, and you trying to follow would increase the danger for others on the road.

That doesn't mean that I think it should be illegal to call 911 on a cell phone while driving, or dangerous. If calling 911 while driving makes you a danger on the road, you were already a danger on the road and shouldn't be driving in the first place.

cmosdes
07-19-2011, 04:18 PM
How do you define an obvious drunk driver?

Holding a bottle of a liquor? Driving in some dangerous manner? Or playing the radio too loud?

If someone is a danger on the road for a good reason, pull over, and make a call.

It's kind of hard to find the circumstances where you should follow such a person to aid the police once you have a license plate number. They would be endangering you, and you trying to follow would increase the danger for others on the road.

That doesn't mean that I think it should be illegal to call 911 on a cell phone while driving, or dangerous. If calling 911 while driving makes you a danger on the road, you were already a danger on the road and shouldn't be driving in the first place.
I would think spotting an "obviously drunk" driver wouldn't be all that difficult. There are plenty of stories of people noticing other drivers driving erratically and calling it in, saying the observed driver appears drunk. Watch the video in the linked thread. I think that is the epitome of a drunk driver. I think most people agree calling it in is the right thing to do.

Contrapuntal and sachertorte are of the opinion it is fine to follow the impaired driver while on your phone. sachertorte states you are still able to focus on both your driving and your conversation with the police. Contrapuntal makes the case that if the police condone it, that makes it okay. I even stated that that as a 1 time thing and not being habitual (thus the odds are in your favor) it might make it arguably acceptable.

I'm wondering how others view it. I think it would be better to pull over after getting the right info. If the police ask you to pull back out and try and follow, then that is what you should do. But barring that, let the police handle it after that.

The other thread sparked this question as the OP in that thread was lauded for his efforts. I didn't want to dump on that thread, so I asked in here.

TriPolar
07-19-2011, 04:25 PM
I would think spotting an "obviously drunk" driver wouldn't be all that difficult. There are plenty of stories of people noticing other drivers driving erratically and calling it in, saying the observed driver appears drunk. Watch the video in the linked thread. I think that is the epitome of a drunk driver. I think most people agree calling it in is the right thing to do.


That's what I figured. Just highlighting that my answer was about actual dangerous driving, not someone's ludicrous suspicion.


I'm wondering how others view it. I think it would be better to pull over after getting the right info. If the police ask you to pull back out and try and follow, then that is what you should do. But barring that, let the police handle it after that.


That's what I think. The only thing I can imagine along those lines is the police telling you to follow from a distance, or more likely telling you to keep your distance and nothing about following.

Crown Prince of Irony
07-19-2011, 04:32 PM
I agree with others, that the distraction caused by this particular instance would be minimal. The mere act of conversing on a cell phone isn't the primary risk factor; rather, it is the fact that one's attention is distracted from the task of driving. The study cited in the OP does not take this into account:
In both cell phone conditions, the participant and a research assistant engaged in naturalistic conversations on topics that were identified on the first day as being of interest to the participant.

Since the driver in the linked thread was focusing their attention on the road, it stands to reason that the risk was much less than that assessed by the linked study.


I can say that I've made calls on two occasions to report reckless, likely drunk, driving - one time from a handheld phone, to 911, when I saw a car on OR-217 scrape the guardrail, then almost run a minivan off the road. The dispatcher asked if I was on a handsfree, I said no, so she got the plate number, last exit passed, and asked me to hang up for my safety.

Another time I made a call over my handsfree (to the local sherrif's dispatch number since the risk was less immediate) - the driver was weaving, and changing speeds very drastically on a backroad with few cross-streets, so they were either drunk, or having a stroke. As before, the dispatcher asked if I was on a handsfree, and when I said I was, didn't seem too concerned with getting me off the phone quickly. This one I followed until he stopped in a Fred Meyer parking lot, let the dispatcher know where he stopped, and left it at that.

cmosdes
07-19-2011, 04:54 PM
I agree with others, that the distraction caused by this particular instance would be minimal. The mere act of conversing on a cell phone isn't the primary risk factor; rather, it is the fact that one's attention is distracted from the task of driving. The study cited in the OP does not take this into account:


Since the driver in the linked thread was focusing their attention on the road, it stands to reason that the risk was much less than that assessed by the linked study.It looked to me like the OP in the other thread was concentrating on the other driver and giving info to the police, not necessarily his own driving. Not to mention he had beeps going off the entire time which had to be a bit distracting. Did you see the part in the video where he was giving a play by play of the near head on collision and which exit they were passing?

Your second sentence would seem to contradict your later assertion that being hands free really makes a difference. As you said, it is the attention factor not the hands free factor that makes a difference. I use the hand held stipulation in my OP to remove that part of the debate.

Whack-a-Mole
07-19-2011, 05:11 PM
Contrapuntal and sachertorte are of the opinion it is fine to follow the impaired driver while on your phone. sachertorte states you are still able to focus on both your driving and your conversation with the police. Contrapuntal makes the case that if the police condone it, that makes it okay. I even stated that that as a 1 time thing and not being habitual (thus the odds are in your favor) it might make it arguably acceptable.

I'm wondering how others view it. I think it would be better to pull over after getting the right info. If the police ask you to pull back out and try and follow, then that is what you should do. But barring that, let the police handle it after that.

The other thread sparked this question as the OP in that thread was lauded for his efforts. I didn't want to dump on that thread, so I asked in here.

It is not about how dangerous it is. I am comfortable that you could make a call to police (you can dial 911 by touch easily) and drive ok while following the drunk driver.

The thing is you are, by default, admitting to a crime yourself when you call the police and tell them you are following the drunk driver. Nor do I think the police can ask a civilian to follow a suspect and also ask them to break the law while doing so (staying on the phone).

Granted, at worst, it is merely a ticket for you and maybe a point on your record and it would be shitty for them to issue a citation to you for it. Still, the cops sometimes do shitty things (like shutting down some little girl's lemonade stand (http://www.unitedliberty.org/articles/8459-lemonade-stand-shut-down-in-georgia) because she didn't pay the $50 business license). Or a woman convicted of homicide (http://blogs.forbes.com/erikkain/2011/07/18/woman-convicted-of-homicide-after-drunk-driver-kills-her-child/) for jaywalking after a drunk driver killed her child (and she may spend more time in jail than the guy who hit her...a guy with two previous hit-and-run convictions, was drunk and on pain killers and blind in one eye).

My point is don't expect the police to be cool about things. They may not be.

Chronos
07-19-2011, 05:13 PM
Yes, the drunk driver might get away. What does that have to do with anything? I don't really think that me following the drunk would substantially change the chance of him getting caught, and (even if I weren't distracted by the phone) would entail a significant risk for me, since it involves putting me in close proximity of a stupid drunk with a deadly weapon.

cmosdes
07-19-2011, 07:29 PM
It is not about how dangerous it is. I am comfortable that you could make a call to police (you can dial 911 by touch easily) and drive ok while following the drunk driver.Do you think you can drive okay while talking to anyone or just the police? Why are the police different than anyone else?

Yes, the drunk driver might get away. What does that have to do with anything? I don't really think that me following the drunk would substantially change the chance of him getting caught, and (even if I weren't distracted by the phone) would entail a significant risk for me, since it involves putting me in close proximity of a stupid drunk with a deadly weapon. Did you read the linked thread? Do you think the drunk driver in that thread would have been caught if he weren't followed? It took the police 25 minutes to respond. The driver could have been 30 miles away in those 25 minutes and the police wouldn't have tracked him down for at least several hours. By that time, he could be stone cold sober. There are those in this debate that think following is the best course of action, or at least not dangerous. You started this by asking what the difficult part of this is. It would appear there are different opinions on how best to handle this.

Whack-a-Mole
07-19-2011, 10:04 PM
Do you think you can drive okay while talking to anyone or just the police? Why are the police different than anyone else?


Maybe I am not sure what you are asking here.

If you are asking, "Can I drive safely and call in a report of a drunk driver at the same time?" I would say almost certainly yes. Hell, until it became illegal to drive and use a cell phone most of us probably did and most of us survived the experience with no trouble.

Certainly it is a good thing to call and try and get the drunk off the road. Then again this article (http://unews.utah.edu/old/p/062206-1.html) suggests using a cell phone while driving impairs you as much as being drunk. To be fair though that is only when a person is at the border of the legal alcohol limit which, obviously, is definitionally not impaired (or impaired to any significant extent). If you were too impaired at the limit then the limit would be lower. Personally I think you are fine calling for this purpose.

My point is that when you call the cops to report the crime (remember 911 calls are recorded) when you say you are following a drunk driver you have just admitted to the police that you are committing a crime too. Maybe not a terrible crime but a crime nonetheless.

Yes it would be shitty for the police to issue you a citation but they might. If you do happen to get in an accident while you are doing this (unlikely but possible) you are in bigger trouble (your insurance will probably deny money).

If you think it important enough to call it in anyway and take the (probably small) risk of the above knock yourself out.

Or you can collect the relevant details, pull over and call it in. You are not the cops. It is not your place to chase suspects.

cmosdes
07-20-2011, 08:50 AM
Telling the police you are following a drunk driver doesn't necessarily mean you are admitting to a crime. In my state, Oregon, you can use hands free phones while driving. I believe that is the case in NY as well. There are probably other states that have a similar, ridiculously stupid, exception to driving while on a cell phone.

If you are asking, "Can I drive safely and call in a report of a drunk driver at the same time?" I would say almost certainly yes. Hell, until it became illegal to drive and use a cell phone most of us probably did and most of us survived the experience with no trouble.
When I was a kid there were no seat belt laws, car seat laws, the drunk driving laws were a joke, etc. Yet most of us survived the experience with no trouble. Your cite and mine both provide evidence that driving while on a cell (distracted) will impair your driving. Is the risk worth it? That is the question at hand.


If you think it important enough to call it in anyway and take the (probably small) risk of the above knock yourself out.

Or you can collect the relevant details, pull over and call it in. You are not the cops. It is not your place to chase suspects. That was my question to the gallery. Which one would you choose?