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Would You Report A Drunk Driving Accident If The Driver Begged You Not To?

How involved should one become?

My neighbor told me of an incident that happened recently which left me incensed.

A couple of weekends ago, a drunk driver speeding south on Flat Shoals Avenue crashed into a Georgia Power utility pole just south of May Avenue, a neighbor said.

The crash, which my neighbor said occurred around 2 a.m. on a Saturday, apparently drew several residents from their homes, as well as patrons from a nearby restaurant in the heart of East Atlanta Village.

The driver, according to my neighbor, was extremely drunk — but lucid enough to beg everyone around him not to call the police.

No one did, including my neighbor.

It surprised me that no one called the police. More importantly, it made me angry.

Maybe onlookers decided that since he was okay, and the crash only involved his vehicle, it was fine not to call 911.

Maybe they figured since no pedestrians were injured, it was all right to give him a break.

My thinking: Maybe he's a repeat offender with one too many DUIs and didn't want to risk an arrest.

Maybe he didn't have a license or it was suspended. Or maybe he just felt he was above facing the legal consequences of his actions.

Whatever the reason or reasons, the bystanders were wrong not call authorities. I think this guy should have faced the consequences.

"As described, there appear to be several laws that may have been violated and should’ve been reported to police," Atlanta Police Department spokesman Carlos A. Campos wrote to me in an e-mail asking about citizens' responsibility in such situations.

"There are laws concerning the failure to report an accident involving property damage, striking a fixed object, leaving the road, failure to maintain lane and possibly driving under the influence," he wrote. "Traffic laws such as these are there for a reason, and should be reported to ensure safe streets for all of us."

And even though he appeared fine, drivers often don't know they're injured, which is another reason to have called authorities, Cynthia Hagain of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Georgia, told me.

If he had outstanding warrants for DUIs, driving without insurance, or upcoming court case, reporting that incident would have helped to possibly prevent a future incident, Hagain, lead victim services specialist at MADD Georgia, said.

Bottom line, she said: "If it went unreported, he's gotten away with drunk driving."

Here are a few reasons why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says we should:

  • Alcohol-impaired driving is the most frequently committed violent crime in the U.S.
  • On average someone is killed by a drunk driver every 40 minutes.
  • About three out of every 10 Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related traffic crash at some time in their lives.

We'll likely never know what motivated the Flat Shoals Avenue drunk driver to beg onlookers that they don't call police.

He was lucky. So were other the motorists and pedestrians whom he could have hit instead of the Georgia Power utility pole.

But by allowing him to call a tow truck, which picked him up, along with his vehicle, the bystanders allowed him to get away with it.

By doing so, they allowed him to potentially go right back driving drunk again.

By doing so, they allowed him to put himself and everyone else in his path at risk. Again.

Péralte Paul July 18, 2011 at 09:31 PM
Humm, I'd agree that the legal system could use some changing, but I still think folks should have called the cops in this case. I too, hope he learned his lesson, but we'll never know.
Rick Claussen July 18, 2011 at 10:55 PM
Sorry, I guess I'm an a$$hole. I would have called the cops immediatly, I have kids that I would like to think are safer without this drunk on the road.
Maggie Lee July 19, 2011 at 10:25 PM
What, no one called the cops? Ask somebody who's had a loved one murdered by a drunk driver what they would do. In real reality, yeah, people drive around buzzed. And, uh, yeah, please don't do that. Drink some coffee, eat a pancake, chill for a little while. #WaffleHouse
Mark Tinker July 20, 2011 at 06:37 PM
Well- let's see- should I call the cops the next time I'm out and observe you having a few beers or splitting a bottle of wine with your dinner? Odds are, you'd be over the legal limit if tested. The legal limit is so low, that if you drink AT ALL and drive home, you are DUI.
Péralte Paul July 21, 2011 at 12:48 AM
I agree there is a fine line at passing a sobriety test and technically failing, at the lower end, but an officer would have some discretion in that situation. This guy careened his car into a utility pole; he was clearly smashed. There was no gray area about that.

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