Drunk Driving Roommate

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Dear Hoopers,
My roommate is an idiot when it comes to drinking and driving. We live in a major city where the selection of public transportation, rideshare, cabs is endless. There is no excuse to drive under the influence. This weekend we got into a huge argument because she came in completely blasted after a night out. I told her that she’s going to kill herself or someone else if she doesn’t quit. Of course, she doesn’t remember the conversation because she blacked out after it. I seriously am worried for her life. How do I make her realize what selfish decisions she’s making when she gets behind the wheel intoxicated?
-Drunk Driving Roommate

Dear Drunk Driving Roommate,

You know your roomie is driving home intoxicated and it’s scary. You’re worried for her safety and you’re worried for everyone on the road with her. It’s not like you haven’t explained your concerns to her. And it’s not like she doesn’t have safer ways to get home. But despite all of this, she keeps drinking and she keeps driving.

The data is pretty clear that drinking and driving is a serious threat to everyone on the road. Alcohol-impaired crashes account for 10,000 deaths per year in the US, representing a ⅓ of all traffic-related deaths. And yet, drinking and driving is quite common. One study found that more than 10% of female drinkers in their early to mid 20s engaged in intoxicated driving. Interestingly, the same study revealed that only 3% of female drinkers older than 26 reported drinking and driving. The study didn’t make any conclusions as to why this happened, but I would guess it has some correlation to maturity and increased financial resources. I’m not sure what’s going to do it for your roomie, but she needs to figure it out fast.   

Alcohol-impaired crashes account for 10,000 deaths per year in the US, representing a ⅓ of all traffic-related deaths.

-Dr. Ryan

I would start with a serious and thoughtful conversation with her when she is sober. Say your concern with your words but also say it with your heart. Let her know you care about her and you don’t want her to hurt herself. Share the statistics from this response and see what she says.

If finances are part of her drinking and driving, remind her about the financial implications of a DUI. Not only the $10,000-$15,000 in immediate costs but implications for employment. Lastly, It sounds like your friend hasn’t experienced much damage from her substance use to this point. If you make your best effort to influence her for the better and she doesn’t change, maybe that should start with you.
-Dr. Ryan

Dear Drunk Driving Roomate,
Your roommate may need help with a drinking problem.  If she keeps this up, an unfortunate outcome is inevitable. I’m sure the majority of people reading this have had a time when they had to check themselves after a questionable drive home. I’m stern when it comes to drinking and driving these days, but I’m no angel and certainly had experiences before the days of Uber, where I pushed my limits. None of us are invincible.

My suggestion is to get real with her soon. Do it when she’s sober.  Explain to her that you care about her and firmly tell her that the drinking and driving has to end before she ends up wrapping her car around a power pole or killing an innocent family. Yeah, it’s a morbid picture, but it’s impactful. If she’s a repeat offender of drunk driving then she needs a reality check often. Don’t let up even if it causes embarrassment or hostility in your house. She should feel guilty. It’s illegal. Does she not see the danger in what she does? Ask her. Involve other friends to hold her accountable.  At this point she is selfishly making the decision that her life is more important than the safety of everyone else around her when she gets behind the wheel inebriated.

Don’t let up even if it causes embarrassment or hostility in your house. She should feel guilty. It’s illegal.


Along with a reality check you can help your roommate with practical next steps such as making sure rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft are downloaded on her phone, and a local taxi cab number is stored in her contacts. So many people jump in their car rather than opting to have a DD because of the hassle and expense. In a major city, it’s common to get an Uber in less than 5 minutes. She can wait.  If you are out with her and she is drunk, take her keys.

You don’t have to be a babysitter, but anyone who sees someone noticeably intoxicated should do their part in stopping them before they get in their vehicle. Friend or stranger. And whatever you do, never get in the car with someone who is drunk behind the wheel. My grandparents were hit head on by a drunk driver when I was a child. I can still remember walking into the hospital room and seeing my grandfather in a neck brace covered with bruises. Those are memories you don’t shake. They were fortunate to make it out alive, but it’s not always the case.