CHP wants you to call 911 on drunken drivers — and texting motorists if all over the road, too

Q. Dear Mr. H: On a recent interminable drive from Oregon to the O.C., I had much time for contemplation, including about the very common signs you see: “Report Drunk Drivers, Call 911.” How are we to identify drunken drivers versus just plain bad drivers? Should we also report texting drivers, because many say it’s as dangerous as drunken driving? How often are these calls made and is there an actual serious response?

– Rick Birle, Lake Forest

A. If you see a driver who is potentially threatening others, just give a 911 operator a heads-up, Rick.

“Swerving into another lane is an indicator, fluctuating their speed, crossing over onto the shoulder (or median),” said Brian Kinsey, an officer and spokesman for the California Highway Patrol station house not real far from your place, Rick, in San Juan Capistrano. “Many times an officer is in the area and will try to contact that party.”

The dispatcher will want what you can provide: the vehicle’s make, model, color and, if possible, the license-plate number. Get a feel for where you are before dialing — what off-ramp are you near?

Sometimes, of course, the officers in the area are already attending other demands, say on the way to a crash. Otherwise, a black-and-white could try to spot the wobbly motorist.

“You also want to keep your distance, you don’t want to be in front of the driver — you want to stay behind them,” Kinsey said. “The best thing to do is to call. … Some people try to chase them down. … That’s not what we want.”

OK, how often do such 911 calls come in for drunken drivers?

“There is quite a few of them that come in,” Officer Kinsey said. “I have probably arrested 10 (originating from such calls). I have been on for 11 years.”

For texting motorists who are driving perilously, it is the same drill.

“It is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol — texting and driving,” Kinsey said. “If you see they are driving erratically, definitely call it in as well.”

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There’s no leeway with your name on a driver’s license

Q. Hi Mr. Honk. I am a little confused regarding your recent columns about renewing a driver’s license. So the application can be started online, with the knowledge test or an online course instead? But those 70 and older are required to renew in person at a Department of Motor Vehicles’ office? Which one is correct?

– Barbara Cole, Studio City

A. Honk is confusing? Has Mrs. Honk been feeding you a line, Barbara?

Actually, both statements you mentioned are true.

You can do some stuff online if you want if eligible, yes, and the DMV recommends that. But in the end those 70-plus must still go into an office for, among other things, a vision test to get a license renewed.

HONKIN’ FACT: Since 1921, Caltrans has lost 191 roadway workers who died in the line of duty. Two of those were killed last year: An under-the-influence motorist collided with a landscape-maintenance worker alongside a highway near Vacaville, and a vehicle struck another one carrying a civil engineer on his way to a job site near Fresno (Source: Caltrans).

To ask Honk questions, reach him at He only answers those that are published. To see Honk online: Twitter: @OCRegisterHonk

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