Dear Prudence

Help! My Friend Drives Her Kids Around While She’s Drunk. Should I Call the Cops?

Dear Prudence answers more of your questions—only for Slate Plus members.

Every week, Danny Lavery answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.

Q. Alcoholic friends: My friend and her husband drink heavily. I don’t remember the last time I saw either of them sober.

At a recent event, they were both drunk to the point that they couldn’t walk straight and were slurring their words. They thought they were going to drive home and became enraged when a friend took their keys. Another friend eventually offered to take them home, and they were verbally abusive to this friend the entire ride. Here’s the kicker: They have two small children who were with them at the time. At one point, the little boy said (very sadly), “Mommy, I think you had too much to drink again.”

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I’ve witnessed my friend drinking to excess in her car at the kids’ sporting events. Others in our group have said that they drink to intoxication nearly every day and drive drunk on a regular basis.

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I’m terrified they’re going to hurt their kids or someone else. What is my responsibility here?

Should I talk to one or both of them about their excessive drinking (which I believe would only result in them ending the friendship and not speaking to me anymore)? Approach one of their family members? Or is this a case where a more extreme approach (such as contacting the local police about their drunk driving) is necessary? The thought of turning them in makes me feel like an awful friend, but my heart hurts thinking about the harm that may come to their poor kids. I feel like everyone in our circle of friends is looking the other way, and someone needs to step up.

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A. I’m so sorry about the position you find yourself in. If your friends are driving drunk on a regular basis with children in the car, which you’ve both seen and heard about, I think you have an obligation to call the police. If it weren’t for the drunk driving, you might have gentler options available to you, but the safety of your friends’ children (and others on the road) must come first. Anyone who thinks getting wasted in his or her car at a child’s soccer game is a reasonable idea is not going to listen to “Maybe you should cut back.”

I think you should contact the police and report what you’ve seen. This isn’t a question of how to improve shaky parenting; it’s a question of whether they should be allowed to risk their children’s lives on a daily basis. Call the police. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

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