It goes without saying that every time you get behind the wheel of a car, you need to be paying attention. Lately, that concept seems to have been abandoned in favor of multi-tasking, like reading email and sending text messages; however, people are getting behind the wheel overworked, overwrought, and just plain stressed out, too, which isn't much different than other attention-draining states of mind.
Over the weekend, while driving a particularly dark stretch of interstate and probably 40 miles from the nearest town (admittedly - not solo but with my sister), there was a car in front of me that I noticed was weaving; generally, it was staying within the confines of the right lane, but the speed was erratic - sometimes dropping as low as 45 before accelerating back up to 70, swerving the whole time.
When you notice a car is being driven erratically, you can report them. Sometimes, it requires saying to the officer who takes the call that you'll be willing to sign a complaint, but in most cases, just reporting it is sufficient. Some states have special numbers for interstate drivers to use, but in all states, 911 will also - at bare minimum - reach a police dispatch officer who can help.
Before you call to report an erratic driver, try to get the following information - WITHOUT putting yourself at risk.
- Car Information - at night, this can be difficult to see. What we did was simply wait for the traffic around us to lighten up, and changed lanes to pass them. That allowed us to get the make, model, color and license plate. I've considered how I might have done this had I been driving solo. My iPod has a short cut for a voice note feature, and so does my phone, which would at least help me to remember the details without being unsafe.
- Highway Information - Watch for the nearest mile marker or other highway signs. Know the interstate or highway number that you're on. You will need to provide all that information to dispatch.
- Your Car Information - When I called dispatch, they did not ask what I was driving, but it's always good to have your own license plate number memorized in case dispatch asks for it. You can provide the make and model of your own car as an additional marker, if you plan to stay in the vicinity of the car, like we did.
It's always best to be prepared for a variety of emergency situations - some of which may not involve you but other drivers. It's not about "tattling"; it's about safety for everyone involved. Stay safe, use a headset for your cell phone, and give driving your full attention, for your sake and the sake of those around you.