Should we use our cell phone to call in and report impaired drivers?
Yes, but infused with a great deal of common sense.
Cell phones have been a key factor in getting many impaired and/or aggressive drivers off the road. We can also get to the incidents that have already occurred faster because people can call immediately from the scene.
This is a great contribution, but remember, even in a situation where a dangerous driver needs our attention you have to conduct yourself safely – never compound a dangerous situation.
When calling 911 because you believe a driver may be impaired, first determine where you are and try to find something concrete to give the dispatcher answering the 911 call: milepost, addresses, cross streets, etc.
A location such as “just south” of Mankato on Hwy 22 could mean many things; St. Clair turn off, County 90 or Beauford. The Dispatcher will want to know your name, call back number and a brief but detailed description of the event and the vehicles involved.
Stay on the line until the dispatcher tells you to hang up or you deem it has become unsafe for you.
If we get the vehicle’s plate number we can run it and possibly determine the driver's route and if the description of the vehicle matches. Any description of the driver is helpful also. Don’t guess or fill in the blanks, we realize not all the information can be attained in every situation
Finally, if possible call when the event is happening, doing so safely. Calling after you get to work or at the end of the day, or the next morning, makes it very hard for us to investigate or gather any information.
If the call does not pertain to us our dispatch will get you to the right person.
Things not to do; do not chase a car at high speeds or mimic the erratic driving behavior to stay with the alleged impaired driver, do not stay with them or pursue them if they realize what you are doing and are acting aggressive towards you or challenging you.
Also if their poor driving behavior is escalating because they are trying to get rid of you - disengage.
It seems like a lot to think about, but you will be fine most of this is in your head already; common sense, and the 911 dispatcher can assist beyond that.