How to stop a friend from driving home drunk

Slate’s Troy Patterson recently answered a question about the best method of stopping a drunk friend from driving as part of his Gentleman Scholar series.

His advice strikes me as fairly obvious and likely ineffective. A lot of emphasis on talking and humor with the eventual threat of law enforcement.  

My advice is highly effective and much more practical.


Only once in my life did I have to struggle to stop a friend from driving drunk. Typically the offer of a ride home or an evening on the couch has been enough to convince my friends to stay off the roads.

When I spent time in bars when I was younger and saw someone leaving who was clearly inebriated, I would offer a ride to these strangers as well, and when they refused, it wasn’t uncommon for me to say something like, “Well, then I hope your mother is on the road tonight, and I hope that she’s the one who you kill or maim when you plow into someone with your car.”

This comment did not always result in a positive outcome, but on a least one occasion, the ensuing scuffle allowed me to wrestle the keys from the idiot and prevent him from driving home.

Only once did I struggle to convince a friend to stay off the roads after drinking too much. I was nineteen and hosting a party at my home in Attleboro, Massachusetts. It was a place that we affectionately referred to as The Heavy Metal Playhouse. Our parties tended to be large, alcohol-infused affairs, and most of our guests either sobered up before going home or (more commonly) spent the night sleeping it off.

On this particular night, however, a coworker and friend named Mike decided to leave the party early, and it was clear that he shouldn’t be driving. A few of our friends attempted to convince him into stay, but when it became clear to me that they weren’t going to succeed, I went outside and parked my car behind his.

In retrospect, letting the air out of his tires would’ve been a much better choice. Mike went outside, saw my car parked behind his and demanded that I move it. When I refused, he climbed into his car, started the engine and began ramming the side panel of my car, thereby confirming his high blood alcohol level.

In the end, Mike gave up and found a ride home with a friend. Our friendship, which wasn’t strong to begin with, was never the same again.

Both cars were slightly damaged as a result of the altercation, but when you’re nineteen years-old, dents don’t matter much.

Actually, even today, dents don’t matter much.

So when you find yourself with an inebriated friend who is preparing to drive and nothing will convince him or her otherwise, my advice is simple and practical:

Deflate a tire. Deflate all four if you have time, but one should be plenty.

It will work every time.