Friend with a Drinking and Driving Problem
December 6, 2004 8:42 AM   Subscribe

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I know, for a fact, that someone is drink driving EVERY DAY. Not just a few pints, but at LEAST 8pints and then driving home. Mostly it's a short, five minute drive, but sometimes it's longer distance. I have tried to talk to him and get him to stop - to walk to the pub. His brother has tried to talk to him. He just won't. He is also diabetic, so the drink has adverse effects on his sugar levels, which makes him more dangerous. He can't even walk properly when he gets home, so goodness knows how he can drive. The problem is, this person is a relative - and he's given me somewhere to live when I had nowhere.

I just don't know what to do. Would you inform someone? Or would you keep quiet? I don't particularly WANT to 'rat' on him, but what happens if he hits someone, and I know I could have stopped it? What would you do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total)
I would call the police anonymously and inform them of the details. Do it from a payphone if you're paranoid and have a fake name prepared in advance in case they ask.

I'm sure your relative's been great to you but he's risking the lives of other people.

If you were anyone but who you are and lived in the same neighborhood, wouldn't you want you to contact the police?
posted by dobbs at 8:46 AM on December 6, 2004

I would inform the police. You've already figured out you'll feel horrible if he hits someone.

As a disclaimer, I've had friends killed by drunk drivers. In one case, one friend killed another. I also, in my torrid youth, drove drunk all the time. Had I gotten caught, perhaps that would have stopped me sooner.

It's tough, but would you rather have a problem brought to your attention by a drunk driving ticket, or by killing someone?
posted by QIbHom at 8:50 AM on December 6, 2004

The ideal situation would be if you can have the police stop him before he tries to drive home the next time. That way, it might put the fear of blue into him and he won't have to suffer the huge stigma that comes with a DUI (assuming you're american). Not sure exactly how you'd do that though.
posted by drezdn at 8:53 AM on December 6, 2004

I think you already know the answer to your question; it's just that the implications of it are terrible for you to face.
posted by mcwetboy at 8:56 AM on December 6, 2004

Sounds like he's also an alcoholic, which I would also consider a major issue. There's a lot of literature out there about how to hold an effective intervention, you might check that out. Get him into a program.
posted by agropyron at 9:01 AM on December 6, 2004

I agree with the above--I would absolutely turn him in. In my opinion, drunk driving is one of the worst things you can do. If he was just being reckless with his own life, I'd say go the intervention route. But there's no excuse for being reckless with the lives of anyone with the bad luck to cross your path.
posted by handful of rain at 9:14 AM on December 6, 2004

Book him, Danno. (Potential) Murder one.

There's no excuses for drink driving. This guy is playing russian roullette with other peoples' lives on a daily basis, and deserves everything he gets. If he ran down one of my kids, I'd want the privilege of personally stringing him up. And if I discovered that somebody knew about it and did nothing, I'd want to string them up right next to him.

Morally, he's made you his accomplice. Maybe legally, too.
posted by veedubya at 9:15 AM on December 6, 2004

Considering that you know someone is doing something 1. Incredibly dangerous and 2. illegal, I think alerting someone about it is necessary.

Also, and I'm not saying I agree with this, but I could see how a family of a victim injured/killed by your drunk-driving friend could easily turn their anger- personally and legally, against you if they found out you knew he was doing this and let him.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:19 AM on December 6, 2004

I would start by getting all the family members who are concerned together to have an intervention. Have at least one professional in attendance to help manage the process.

At the intervention, say very clearly that if he ever drives drunk again, you will inform law enforcement. Be sure that every family member endorses this policy (even if they are not as ready to act on it as you are). Tell him that if he tries to blame the individual who informs law enforcement of his dangerous and anti-social action, you, as a family, will accept the blame together, and he will not be able to ostracize or bully the person who is acting not only in his best interest, but in society's.

Then follow through on this. But be sure you have the family structures in place, and have given him a formal warning (which means you have to do the intervention RIGHT AWAY) first. Because otherwise, this will become a different story within the family, and he will find ways to blame you rather than confront the problem, and you will only have achieved a short-term solution.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:23 AM on December 6, 2004

Everyone seems to be saying the same thing. I will agree, and simlply say

1. Ask the police to show up at the bar, before he gets in the car.

2. If he hits someone, the guilt you will have will be unbearable, because you knew, and did nothing.
posted by orange clock at 9:26 AM on December 6, 2004

A few kids I used to know were doing this, regularly; last summer they lost control of their car on a bend, and were trapped inside when it caught fire.

You have an obligation to your friend to make sure that he doesn't kill himself or anyone else. If you can see that he gets stopped before driving, maybe prevent a dui, that would be nice and all... but really, you just need to see that it stops happening, period. It's hard, but the fact that you're willing to post and ask tells me that you know what you have to do.
posted by cmyr at 9:27 AM on December 6, 2004

Yes to what everyone has said, but you might also have a talk with the pub owner or server at the pub. Explain that he is driving home drunk and you don't want THEM to be responsible as, in the US, they are for overserving. They can cut him off too.

Since you and his brother have already spoken to him and he continues drink and drive; he'll drink and drive until he is arrested, or hurts someone, including himself. Calling the police is really your only option left. It's worth losing the friendship rather than losing a life.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 9:33 AM on December 6, 2004

What Sidhedevil said.

Make every effort to involve the rest of your family in this, so that you don't have to shoulder the burden alone.

And make sure to emphasize (whether its true or not) that you are doing this not because you are judging his behavior as immoral (even if you are), but because you do not want him to hurt himself or anyone else that you care about.

Best of luck.
posted by googly at 9:39 AM on December 6, 2004

You MUST do something. If he has an accident, which he inevitably will, you'll have blood on your hands too.

I know this is a difficult situation, but not nearly as difficult as it could become if you don't act.
posted by nylon at 9:43 AM on December 6, 2004

If I had a friend who was a cop I'd have him do an informal (but in uniform) chat before he was trashed first. That way there's no record if he cleans up his act.
posted by substrate at 10:03 AM on December 6, 2004 the US, they are for overserving.

Dram Shop Acts are different from state to state.
posted by anathema at 10:05 AM on December 6, 2004

call the police before someone gets killed.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:12 AM on December 6, 2004

I'm with everybody else. Turn him in.
posted by raedyn at 10:14 AM on December 6, 2004

It's really a cost-benefit analysis. Even if you will lose the trust of your friend forever by turning him in, is it worse than having somebody else die because of you not doing anything? Drunk drivers take lives. And, maybe, one day, your friend will thank you. Perhaps not today or tomorrow, but in a couple of years.
posted by keijo at 10:26 AM on December 6, 2004

While I agree with everything said above, first and foremost I would try to find a way to get him into in-patient rehabilitation, since he's clearly an alcoholic. Otherwise, the problem will recur. Not even one, two, or three DUIs will sober a chronic alcoholic. Killing someone might, but it would be nice to avoid that particular lesson.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:26 AM on December 6, 2004

My guess is that if anonymous calls the police they will tell him there is nothing they can do until the accident happens. At least, that was my experience, and it was a pretty harsh awakening into the fact that most police, at least here in my city, don't consider prevention to be terribly high on their list of priorities.

One suggestion that may have a better chance of working is to speak to his doctor. Doctors have a responsibility to pull people's driver's licenses if they have a health condition that places them at risk for driving accidents (e.g., epilepsy). The doc won't necessarily be happy to hear from you, as it's not a job they like doing, and your relative may continue to drive even if his license is pulled, but... at least you're trying to make something happen - and maybe if you and other family members keep at it, you'll actually be able to help your relative, not to mention the people he's going to run over someday in the future...
posted by jasper411 at 10:28 AM on December 6, 2004

As a city dweller, I have no flexibility with drunk driving, since I don't have to deal with the everyday reality of driving etc... I'm always surprised when people are forgiving about it in suburban areas. So yeah, do your duty. The intervention thing actually sounds like more drama than you need, but if you're up for it and really want to help blah blah blah, then go for it. But dobbs' suggestion would probably be my first route.

btw, why are people assuming this is an american? Considering the use of "drink driving" rather than "drunk driving", in addition to "pub" and "pints" rather than bar/beers, this sounds like UK to me.
posted by mdn at 10:28 AM on December 6, 2004

Yes to what everyone here has said. Let me just add: you're clearly facing a difficult dilemma, and good for you for taking the step to ask for advice. Everyone here supports you doing the difficult (and right) thing as soon as possible.
posted by equipoise at 10:50 AM on December 6, 2004

I suppose you could take a passive-aggressive approach, and knife his tires whenever he enters a pub. Then he can't drive home, but it does require a great deal of time on your part.

A less damaging solution would be to wander past with a huge adhesive sticker. Slap it on the driver side of the windshield. If you wanted to get snarky you could even have "drunkard" or something printed on it. A suitably adhesive sticker would be a gigantic pain in the ass to peel off -- perhaps the time taken would sober him up a bit.
posted by aramaic at 10:51 AM on December 6, 2004

I informed the police that my Uncle was doing this to almost exactly the extent you describe, anonymous. 15 years later he still hasn't touched a drop since, to his, and everyone else's benefit. You can do your relative a great favour here.
posted by punilux at 10:57 AM on December 6, 2004

I should add that the coppers pulled him outside the pub; 1 year ban, £300 fine.
posted by punilux at 11:02 AM on December 6, 2004

I'm surprised that no one has mention this resource Alanon. It's sort of a auxiliary organization to AA, setup for friends and families of alcoholics. They'd probably have information that is more specific to your geographic area than has been posted here. I've never gone to a meeting but family members of mine have in regards to another family member and they got useful advice and support on how to do an intervention. It's not an easy thing to tell someone you love that they are a dangerous drunk and need to get help. We as a family turned out to be too cowardly to go through with the intervention but were saved by a family friend who was not so craven. It worked too, that person went into rehab and has not had a drink in over a dozen years. It's a tough situation, good luck for both you and your friend.
posted by octothorpe at 11:24 AM on December 6, 2004

I also think that an intervention is better than immediately involving the legal system. Also, I think the most important thing to do is provide him with a huge support net. Make a huge list of friends and relatives willing to drive him home, buy him a cellphone and program it with all those numbers, buy him a nice bicycle (and lots of lights and reflectors), donate money for taxis, etc..

As an aside, I used to work with a nice guy named Jeff, who was an alcoholic. Although it never affected his work, he spent every night at a certain bar. He drove his way into having his license taken (fortunately no accidents there). He accepted his responsibility. Then, he diligently rode his bike to work and the bar. One day, his bike slipped on the ice, knocking all of his reflectors off. A few nights later, he was struck and killed. I don't know what to make of that, but it's a terribly ironic example of karma.

You're doing the right thing, and hopefully one day everyone involved will be thankful for it.
posted by MrZero at 11:45 AM on December 6, 2004

I think the response you get from police will vary based upon where you are. They may not have the wherewithall to respond to a proactive request. I tend to favor an intervention. Reporting to the police can be done as a second step and laid out as a consequence in the intervention. I recommend you do that with professional help. Most counselors that specialize in alcoholism can help.
posted by Crackerbelly at 12:15 PM on December 6, 2004

Getting this to stop will probably be personally difficult for you, but I really respect your attempt to stop the potential deaths of innocents.
posted by grouse at 12:16 PM on December 6, 2004

I'm with most everyone else: call the police. If he's in an accident, it's going to be partially on your head.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:32 PM on December 6, 2004

I would rat on him. It's not as though you can be identified. The short distance is immaterial, given that he does it every night.

I know that you feel you owe him for giving you somewhere to live. You have to remember that at some level, being busted is good for him too, and turning a blind eye is not; also, you live in a civilised society, and that means we owe things to our fellow citizens, not just our friends and family.

Although the pub might be in danger of losing its license, I don't think there is much point to taking it up with them. A), your relative will just find somewhere else to drink, maybe even somewhere further away and B) it's your relative who has the big problem.

It is not easy to be disloyal for the greater good, and I wish you luck - your heart is in the right place.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:36 PM on December 6, 2004

Why not let the guy know you're going to rat him out?

Just tell him "If you continue driving drunk, I'm calling the cops next week." That way you can not only give him an opportunity to fix his problem, but you can also defer any blame he might try to pin on you in the future after he is arrested by saying "I gave you a week. You didn't take advantage of it. Grow up."
posted by shepd at 12:48 PM on December 6, 2004

I lost a good friend for doing what everyone in here is telling you to do. I turned him in to his father, which was probably worse than the cops. He stopped driving drunk... and talking to me. I have to say it was worth it.
posted by poipill at 1:09 PM on December 6, 2004

I think your relative needs a Breathalyzer Ignition Lock.
posted by glibhamdreck at 3:09 PM on December 6, 2004

"The problem is, this person is a relative - and he's given me somewhere to live when I had nowhere."

So he once saved you.

Now it's your turn to save him.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:45 PM on December 6, 2004

Dunno what your gov't PSA's are like, but this ad in the UK has apparently had an effect. Not that gory, but quite dramatic.
posted by dash_slot- at 5:54 PM on December 6, 2004

When you don't know what to do, do the right thing.
posted by nicwolff at 7:25 PM on December 6, 2004

Dunno where you live, but all these people with the "call the police" chorus don't seem to understand that a DUI will be a major obstacle for this guy's future life.

If there is any way to get this person help without involving the police, take that route first.
posted by Irontom at 5:36 AM on December 7, 2004

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