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Drunk Driver

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"My friend Bob got his third DUI this year. That dumb jackass hit a lake! I don't think drinking and driving is funny, but you gotta admit, that is pretty hilarious!"
Kathleen Madigan

What happens when the Hard-Drinking Party Girl, Lady Drunk, Life of the Party, Lampshade Wearer, Drunken Master, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Jack Daniels, or just someone who's been drowning their sorrows gets behind the wheel of their car.

Prior to The '80s, this trope was often a source for comedy, even in a by-the-book Cop Show like Adam-12 when the cops pull them over. (The stock joke is someone suffering from Alcohol-Induced Idiocy trying to say "Sorry Ociffer...") However, a greater awareness of the deadly menace of motorists driving under the influence have now made it a source of An Aesop for a Very Special Episode and placed jokes about it solidly in Dude, Not Funny! territory (though they may still be used for Black Comedy). As a result, impaired drivers are going to hit someone and have a car accident, or be chased down by heroes and/or the police to prevent it. If it's a near miss it's a Scare 'Em Straight.

On television, tends to be a shortcut for declaring a character The Alcoholic, or that The Alcoholic is heading Off the Wagon. Also happens frequently after a Wild Teen Party as An Aesop. An Anti-Alcohol Aesop is pretty much guaranteed.

Subject of many a Public Service Announcement. Driving while distracted (such as texting) or while under the influence of other recreational substances will similarly be given a serious warning treatment, as they can have the same deadly results.

Sub-Trope of Alcohol-Induced Idiocy and Aesop Collateral Damage. Compare and contrast with Fell Asleep Driving, which is another form of distracted driving (albeit people who engage in that trope are usually treated much more sympathetically). Also compare Drives Like Crazy, except this one tends not to be Played for Laughs, unless the incident was incredibly absurd (to the point of Noodle Incident) and either no one was killed or injured or only the drunk driver was in a Karmic Death. note  It may be that this is a cause of Running Over the Plot. Contrast Designated Driver, who actively prevents this trope.

Unfortunately very Truth in Television, so adding real-life examples here is redundant.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Macross: Do You Remember Love? Roy Focker takes his Valkyrie out to rescue Hikaru after some serious drinking. He dies and Misa and Hikaru get thrown into hyperspace. Roy sorties drunk again in Super Robot Wars Alpha Gaiden.
  • In the original Tenchi Muyo! OVA, the crew take Ryo-ohki to attack Kagato. Mihoshi starts feeding her alcohol midflight, resulting in a drunken sentient spaceship.

    Comic Books 
  • Commented on in Batman: Year One, where Bruce Wayne speeds away from his near-disaster first night trying to be a street vigilante, and happens to almost hit Commissioner Gordon. Gordon thinks it's no way to treat a Porsche; two other people who happen to be near recognize Bruce Wayne's car and wonder what he's on; one says he's on cocaine; "Rich people take cocaine. Saw a special on it."
  • Galaxy: The Prettiest Star: How Kat lost her leg. Her father was driving drunk with her in the vehicle, and they ended up in a nine car pile-up. Superman was able to save her life, but she lost her leg in the process.
  • In two consecutive issues of the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel) comic, Candy Appel and Billy both hitch a ride with the same drunk driver. He ends up crashing his car to avoid a collision with the Soft Master. After killing the Soft Master, Scrap Iron blows up the car for good measure. A later issue reveals that Candy and the drunk driver burned to death, but Billy survived minus one eye and one leg.
  • MAD editors and writers had a special Berserk Button about this dating back to the early sixties.
  • In a Spider-Man comic, being arrested for this is what convinced Peters' old friend Flash Thompson to clean up his act and seek help for his alcoholism. Sadly, Norman Osborn includes poor Flash in a plot to drive Spider-Man to murderous violence by attacking his family and friends; under the pretense of picking him up from an AA meeting, Norman force-feeds him whiskey and has him crash a truck into Midtown High School, where Peter works. (Flash survives, but is in a coma for the rest of the arc.)
  • It is quite a miracle that "Werner", a comic figure by German artist Brösel, is still alive, given that he loves a) booze b) his bike c) all of the above. In fact, one cartoon took a Take That! at this strip, killing him in an alcohol-induced crash.

    Comic Strips 
  • Funky Winkerbean: One of the major changes in the strip's history led to Wally Winkerbean's decision to join the Army. In a 1996 storyline, Wally and teen-aged girlfriend Becky Blackburn go to a party, get very drunk and Wally drives her home; along the way, the two get into a romantic mood and begin to French kiss. Just as the steamy kiss is causing them to have a near-orgasm, Wally forgets that he is driving and the car completely misses a curve. The car turns over in a ditch, and while Wally is only slightly injured, Becky is pinned underneath the car and nearly dies. Although Becky's life is ultimately saved, her arm is too severely broken to be saved and it is amputated. (To add insult to injury, this was right after she'd been accepted into Julliard on a flute scholarship.) In the aftermath, Wally (unable to accept the consequences of his actions) decides to join the Army — which will take him to Afghanistan, lead a mission to ban land mines and ultimately be taken prisoner, held for 10 years — while Becky remains a one-armed woman to this day. Amazingly, she forgave Wally and was married to him for several years ... until the day an Army officer informed her that Wally was dead after the helicopter he was riding in was shot down (he had actually survived the crash but was taken prisoner); she later remarried to John Howard, the comic book store owner.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Aftermath of the Games universe, the human version of Twilight Sparkle's parents were killed by one of these three years prior to the first story. The woman, Berry Punch, survived the accident without a scratch, but was arrested and is currently serving time in prison for Driving While Impaired and for involuntary vehicular manslaughter. As for Sci-Twi, her brother and sister-in-law took custody of her and all three of them still grieve for them.
  • One strip from Ask the Ryans mentions that Rory stopped going to "Mr. Flamingo"'snote  Christmas parties after Aran drove her home drunk. Of course, seeing that this is Aran Ryan we're talking about, he may have been a better driver drunk than sober.
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Mittens's abusive adoptive family dies in a fiery drunk-driving car crash in "The Survivor."
  • Soichiro's death in The Outside was in part due to this. He got into a car accident where his car was also T-boned by one driving an SUV.
  • In Persona EG, the reason Sonata's sisters died was that Adagio was driving drunk on Halloween night. She got herself, Aria, and the driver of another car killed, and permanently damaged Sonata's throat.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Andy's first potential sex partner is a serial drunk driver who needs Andy to blow into the Breathalyzer attached to her ignition. She swerves all over the road and nearly gets them both killed many times on the way home.
  • In Basic Instinct, Gus gets behind the wheel while he's hammered, even though his partner Nick offers to drive him home. He manages not to get himself killed.
  • Coy Buckman from Cannonball was in jail for a drunk driving accident that killed a girl. He's just gotten out when the film opens and is trying to get his racing career back on track. It turns out that his mechanic was actually driving in the accident and Buckman only took the heat for him.
  • A Classic Horror Story: Mark, despite having drunk a beer, insists that he drive the RV after they stop for a bit. He actually managed to keep it on the road... up until he sees a corpse in the road.
  • One appears as a Deus ex Machina in The Cooler, to save Bernie and Natalie from being killed by a corrupt police officer by running said officer over.
  • In Courageous, Adam’s daughter is killed by a drunk driver. This is a big turning point in the movie.
  • Daylight's End: When the zombies first appeared, Drew was in jail for driving drunk due to depression over his wife and son leaving him. He seems sober and reliable during the movie itself.
  • Dope: Lily, while high on molly, drives all over the place, including over curbs, as Malcolm tries to rein her in.
  • A 1939 short film called Drunk Driving, part of MGM's "Crime Does Not Pay" series, is one of the earliest movies to pivot on the hazards of drunk driving. A foolish man drives drunk and causes an accident which kills three and causes his wife to lose both her legs.
  • In Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Jeff Spicoli borrows the car of football team captain Jefferson. He drives late at night with Jefferson's brother while high as a kite. He overreacts to a road hazard and crashes, wrecking the car. Now Jefferson's brother panics because he knows how much the car means to him. Interestingly, Spicoli gets stuck behind some slower drivers shortly before the crash and hypocritically says "People on 'ludes should not drive."
  • In A Few Good Men, a decidedly drunk Lt. Kaffee drives to catch up with the walking Lt. Cdr. Galloway and apologize for his rudeness. An example so uneventful that you might not even notice.
  • In the beginning sequence of Final Destination 2, the driver of a beer truck is seen taking a pull from a bottle of beer shortly before everything goes to hell. It was not the triggering factor in the huge pileup, but it may have been a contributing factor.
  • In The Guilty, Asger calls Rashid to ask him to go to Michael's house to try and figure out where he's taking Iben. He notices that Rashid seems to be intoxicated, and asks how much he's had to drink. When told it was 2 or 3 beers, he tells Rashid that he can still drive after drinking that amount. Rashid then admits that it was more like 4 or 5 beers, to which Asger replies that he'll just have to drive very carefully. He makes it there without incident.
  • A variation occurs in Iron Man 2, in which Tony Stark, dying of palladium poisoning, is at a party, smashed out of his gourd, and wearing his Powered Armor, which of course contains a number of dangerous weapons, to show how close to hitting bottom he is. Nick Fury insinuates that Tony did it deliberately in order to provoke Rhodes into "stealing" the War Machine suit.
  • In It's a Wonderful Life, at the Darkest Hour, George goes straight from Martini's to his car and drives into a tree.
  • A drunk driving incident spawns the intervention of Life of the Party
  • In North By Northwest, bad guys force-feed Roger Thornhill a quart of whiskey and put him behind the wheel of a car, sending him on his way. He somehow manages to avoid killing himself or anyone else but gets thrown in jail. His mother and lawyer bail him out, taking these events to be his usual carousing hijinks over his frustrated explanation.
  • Hitchcock's Notorious includes a scene where Alicia is drunkenly swerving on the road while Devlin calmly sits as a passenger. Even leads to a cop driving alongside on a motorcycle, apparently not afraid that she might swerve into him. As they're being pulled over, she tells Devlin it's her second offense.
  • Played for Laughs in the Norwegian version of Olsenbanden og Dynamitt-Harry. Harry tries to drive while heavily intoxicated. He insists that he's fine, but...
    [Harry and Benny are in the car, with Harry in the driver's seat]
    Benny: Wouldn't it be better if I took the wheel now?
    Harry: Nonsense! Nonsense! Get thee behind me! Listen! No one drives as well as old Harry... with a tiny supporting BAC, right? No one!
    Where's the car? [looks around and realizes he's sitting in it] Here's the car.
    [incomprehensible slurred speech] Pay attention now!
    [accidentally puts the car in reverse and backs up into a building, creating a small explosion]
    [manages to drive forward but drives through two fences before crashing]
    I think you should take the wheel for a while. [detaches the steering wheel and hands it over to Benny]
  • Jack Rafferty in Sin City drives drunk. He dies that night but it had nothing to do with his state, surprisingly.
  • Notably defied in The Three Musketeers (it is a Disney film after all). Athos is initially driving the carriage they're fleeing in, but when he is handed a bottle of '24 Cabernet, he makes a point to hand the reigns over to D'Artagnan before he starts drinking. He's drinking while they're being chased at shot at, but that's a different matter.
  • Bruce from Whitewash is drunkenly driving his snowplow when he hits and kills Paul. Later it's revealed that six months previously, he drunkenly crashed the snowplow into a Chicken King, causing him to lose his license for three years.
  • Jordan from The Wolf of Wall Street takes a large amount of Quaaludes with Donnie just before getting a phone call from his lawyer telling him to call back from a different phone. (He thinks the line is tapped.) Jordan drives out to a nearby country club to make the call. During the phone conversation, the Quaaludes take effect and render Jordan with impaired motor skills and perception. He tries to drive back home and seemingly makes it safely. But the next morning, he sees his smashed up car and realizes he didn't.

  • In Atlas Shrugged, Joe Scott, the engineer willing to take the Comet into the Taggart Tunnel with a coal-burning engine, happens to be drunk, and it is presented as a sign of the new political order, and Joe Scott's good connections to it, that the railroad is willing to tolerate having one of its workers show up drunk. He claims that the Comet can make it through the tunnel if he goes fast enough. Everybody on board the train suffocates, and the tunnel is destroyed.
  • And Then There Were None is about a Vigilante Man luring people he views as Karma Houdini to their deaths; one of them was guilty of driving drunk and killing two young pedestrians.
  • In Black Beauty, Reuben Smith goes on a drinking binge before riding Beauty home, causing him to be dismissive of the fact that Beauty has a loose shoe and then to miss the signs that the shoe has come off completely. It doesn't end well.
  • In The Baby-Sitters Club, Abby and Anna Stevenson's father was killed in a crash with a drinking driver prior to their arrival in the series. Also, the book Mary Anne and the Memory Garden is based around the girls grieving for a classmate when she dies as a result of an accident involving drunk driving.
  • According to the narrator of Honoré Beaugrand's 19th-century short story La Chasse-galerie, the Devil is happy to lend lonely voyageurs a flying canoe in which to travel from their logging camp to their hometown New Year's Eve party on the other side of Quebec, provided they don't mention God or crash into any church steeples while paddling it. This proves trickier than expected when you're drinking and flying.
  • The Family Tree Series has Francie's son and Georgie's elder brother Richard end up in a car accident due to his friend Seth's drunk driving. (Richard had been drinking as well.) The accident fractures his thigh and puts him in physical therapy, but he comes off best out in the crash. He's the only survivor of the two-car accident. Seth—who'd been driving—the other unnamed friend, and the person in the other car are all killed, and the single driver in the other car was Georgie's music teacher, Mr. Elden.
  • The events of Girl Waits With Gun are set off by a drunk driver veering into a horse-drawn carriage and the owners' efforts to secure compensation.
  • Honor Harrington features a character killed in an accident with a drunk driver. This causes problems for those still alive because the character in question was the subject of an investigation and the previous government was fond of Make It Look Like an Accident-style murders to remove political opponents. So even though the accident was legitimate, no one would ever believe it.
  • Safehold: A minor character joined La Résistance after learning that the carriage accident that killed his children and crippled his wife was a case of drunk carriage driving, covered up by the Inquisition because the drunk in question happened to be a distant relative of an important churchman.
  • This Side of Paradise: One night, Dick Humbird had been drinking a lot at a party and ended up driving. Ferrenby and the other Princeton students tried taking the wheel from him but failed. As a result, Dick's drunk driving led to an accident that got him killed and two other students injured.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Jack Webb-produced Adam-12 and Emergency! both had episodes where the main characters dealt with drivers under the influence and drunk drivers who had caused car wrecks.
  • The Affair: After a pile-up of misfortunes earlier that day, Helen proceeds to pick her kids up from school while she's drunk and stoned. She crashes the car and gets arrested after assaulting a police officer. It single-handedly undermines her case for sole custody of her and Noah's children.
  • The Andy Griffith Show When Otis buys a car, Andy and Barney worry that he'll inevitably be driving drunk (as he's drunk most of the time). They catch him heading toward his car after an evening of drinking at a party, but he passes out before he can get in. When he awakens, in jail, Andy and Barney act as if Otis had died in a crash, to try to teach him a lesson. It turns out he'd never driven the car and in fact had just sold it, to everyone's relief.
  • Black Mirror: In "Smithereens", protagonist and rideshare driver Chris lost his fiancee Tamsin years ago in a crash with a drunk driver, an event that haunts him to this day. Though ultimately (and tragically) subverted: Chris was actually the one who caused the crash, as he was focused on his social media account on his phone and not on the road. The other driver wasn't at fault, but because he was drunk, he ended up becoming The Scapegoat for the crash.
  • The first season of Boomtown ends with David McNorris entering rehab for his alcoholism after he hears about a man killed in a hit and run accident. Since he was driving drunk at the time, he believes he was responsible. It turns out the victim was actually killed by an Alzheimer's sufferer and David had hit a dog.
  • Drunk driving acts as the impetus for Uncle Saul to come out on Brothers & Sisters. He had grown depressed over his closeted life and running into a tree while driving drunk was the last straw.
  • Chicago Fire: Subverted by a couple who realised they were both far, far too drunk to attempt driving home... so they put their preteen daughter behind the wheel instead. Nothing good comes of this, and rhe Firehouse 81 crew are decidedly unimpressed when they're called upon to extricate the couple and their daughter from the mangled wreckage.
  • One rather Anvilicious episode of CHiPs ("Wheels Of Justice") had a drunk driver pretend his (sober) wife was driving at the time of his drunk driving accident. He was exonerated when it couldn't be proven he was and she wasn't. He later drives drunk with her again and gets into another accident. This time, she dies.
  • A B-plot in the CSI: Miami episode "Addiction" starts with medical examiner Alexx showing a group from an alcoholic treatment program victims of drunk driving accidents in the morgue. She offers one member Derek, who demonstrated taking recovery very seriously, a temporary job as one of her handlers, but when a flask of alcohol goes missing from a victim's belongings, she immediately suspects Derek. He denies it but she doesn't believe him until it's revealed the flask was stolen by one of the other medical examiners. She apologizes to Derek and offers his job back, but while he forgives her and isn't mad at her he turns down the offer. At the end of the episode, a drunk driver and the victim they killed are brought into the morgue, with Alexx devastatingly recognizing the driver. Alexx is then seen with another treatment group and shows them the bodies, revealing that other medical examiner as the driver.
  • Dallas: A recurring storyline was Sue Ellen's alcoholism, and this plays into her decision to drive drunk in a 1983 episode; this will lead to her causing a crash that seriously injures brother-in-law (and Ray Krebbs' nephew) Mickey Trotter.
  • Happens to Wheels in the Degrassi High: School's Out movie Series Finale, with the resulting crash killing an infant. He spent the interval between that series and Degrassi: The Next Generation in prison for it.
  • One of the first people we see Dexter hunt is a serial Drunk Driver who is constantly able to get out of his vehicular manslaughter charges by moving to a new location and changing his name so they cannot connect him to his previous arrests.
  • Leticia on Dirty Sexy Money hit Wrenn with her car while drunk driving.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: In at least one episode, Cletus' bumbling is immediately turned serious when he stops chronic drunk Hobie (unknown last name) in at least one episode. The no-nonsense attitude Cletus takes toward drunk driving was likely to send a stern message about one of the consequences of drunk driving — that you might get arrested.
  • Played quite shamelessly for laughs with the "I'm not pissed" family in The Fast Show. Dad goes to give the boy a ride to school, whereupon the car shoots straight across the road and smashes into a neighbour's parked car. And there the sketch ends.
  • One episode of Flashpoint had to do with a man who was killed in a drunk driving accident. The dead man had appeared to be the driver, but the dead man's father believed the dead man's friend, who survived, was actually the driver and that he staged the scene. It turns out it was neither; it was the dead man's girlfriend, who was gone by the time the police showed up, though the friend was indeed involved in the coverup.
  • Full House: In an episode that focused more on Kimmie getting drunk at a college sorority party and an embarrassed D.J. (and equally embarrassed sorority officers) dealing with her drunken behavior, though Kimmie believes that D.J. was just jealous because, in her mind, she was the life of the party. A tearful D.J. tells Kimmie that her mother had died in an accident caused by a drunk driver (the death happening sometime during the summer of 1987, two months before the first episode was set). Kimmie comes to her senses and realizes what could become of her and agrees to straighten up.
  • Gilmore Girls: Rory's attempt to avert this tied into her renewed romance arc with Dean. Emily had attempted to set her up with the grandson of a friend, so she wound up bar-hopping with his group for the night. When she learned one of the drunkest ones was the designated driver (but she's assured he's the best drunk driver in the world), she tells them to leave without her. She has no money for a cab and winds up calling Dean to pick her up. We never hear from the date or his friends again.
  • Goodnight Sweetheart: Gary stumbles, very drunk, back through the time portal from the 1940s to his present in the 1990s and tries to start his car. When confronted by the contemporary version of Constable Deadman, Gary tries to treat him like his hapless 40s ancestor and ignore him while he tries to drive away. Gary is promptly arrested for drunk driving and has his driving licence suspended; something Gary complains about as getting in the way of his job as a travelling salesman.
  • Growing Pains: The episode "Second Chance," where Carol's goofy boyfriend Sandy (Matthew Perry in an early appearance) is once again the butt of Mike and Ben's silly jokes when he's late for his date ... until they learn (from a phone call) the reason why: He was in a major car accident the previous evening. Viewers later learn that Sandy and Carol had been drinking heavily the night before, and after leaving Carol off, had crashed his car. Sandy appears to be OK, and Carol is thankful that he was just slightly hurt ... but only later do viewers learn the truth: When they get home, Mike has some somber news: Sandy just died from internal bleeding due to his injuries. Carol refuses to believe this at first, but it soon becomes apparent Mike's "cruel joke" (to her) was anything but.
  • Highway to Heaven: In the Season 2 episode "Heaven On Earth," a drunk driving accident where a 5-year-old girl is killed is the catalyst for the main plot (series protagonist Mark Gordon thinking he, not the drunk driver, was somehow to blame for the accident). Mark and Jonathan encounter the drunk driver shortly before the crash, the driver yelling at Mark to pull over and screaming obscenities. Later in the episode, a radio news report is overheard in the background, telling that police are still looking for the driver, who had fled without stopping. (The drunk driver had swerved into the oncoming lane to pass the car, where the little girl was a passenger; the driver of a pickup truck had no choice but to swerve into the other lane and ended up in a head-on collision.)
  • The Hogan Family: Midway through the 1987-1988 season (the first one without Valerie Harper as the mother), David hosts a house party while his father Mike and aunt Sandy are gone; his best friend and one of the guests, Rich, gets very drunk and wants to take a stunning co-ed out for a ride. David — having just lost his mother months earlier, purportedly in an accident caused by a drunk driver — puts his foot down and gets into a huge fight with Rich. David, motivated at an earlier admonition to "do whatever you have to do" to keep someone from driving drunk, locks Rich in the closet overnight. When David lets a somewhat sobered-up Rich out the next morning, Rich remembers vividly what happened ... and is an ungrateful jerk! He yells at David for not letting him consummate that long, sought-after relationship with the supermodel of his senior class. David then reminds him that his mother died in a drunk driving accident, and he couldn't stand the thought of now losing his best friend (not to mention the prettiest girl in high school). Rich eventually comes to his senses and realizes that nothing — not a hot night of sex in bed awaiting a hotel — was worth driving drunk and possibly killing himself or anyone else.
  • In the Heat of the Night: "Forever Fifteen," where a hit-and-run drunk driver crashes into a vehicle where four members of the Sparta High School cheerleading squad were passengers; three of the cheerleaders, including the driver, are killed instantly (one of the girls literally dies in one of the officer's arms), while a fourth is in a coma, never to awaken (Word of God has it she died shortly after the events of this episode). While a publicity-seeking district attorney accuses the force of inadequately investigating the crash, the officers enlist the aid of a retired police officer — himself having to deal with his own memories of losing a loved one in a previous drunk driving crash — to find the driver of the other vehicle. (In the end, the other driver was the district attorney, who was using his campaign against the police force to cover his tracks.)
  • Clare Kincaid of Law & Order is killed when her stationary car is hit by a drunk driver. The next time Jack gets the chance to prosecute a drunk driving case, he conspires to get the culprit the death penalty — by hiding the fact that the driver was drunk. (If the driver was in control of himself and his vehicle, the case potentially becomes first-degree murder.) His conscience — and Jamie's — won't quite let him go through with it.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
    • In "Responsible", a teenage witness drives drunk and gets into a crash, killing himself and a classmate who was in the car with him.
    • In "Paternity", Olivia's car is hit by a drunk driver while she's giving Elliot's pregnant wife Kathy a ride, with Kathy's side taking the worst of it. Kathy goes into labor as a result of the crash, but she and the baby are ultimately okay.
    • At one point, Elliot's daughter gets arrested for drunk driving. In retrospect, it's potentially an early symptom of the bipolar disorder she's diagnosed with a few seasons later.
  • Little House on the Prairie: Although set in the 1880s by the time Season 8's "A Promise To Keep" aired — Mr. Edwards drives a buckboard and delivery wagon after having gotten very drunk, and causes an accident as a sober Albert is trying to wrest control of the wagon from Edwards — the point of the dangers of drunk driving are still made abundantly clear: Edwards ends up driving over a curb, causing Albert to fall onto the street ... and into the path of another wagon. Albert is run over but miraculously escapes with minor injuries.
  • Mad Men had shown this several times, mostly to illustrate the much more casual attitude to drunk driving in The '60s.
  • Midsomer Murders:
    • In "Tainted Fruit", Sally Rickworth drove home drunk after the Tennis Do and crashed into a neighbor's car before falling asleep behind the wheel.
    • "Midsomer Rhapsody": At the opening of Joan Alder House, Laura stuns the crowd by introducing a young woman, Sarah, as Joan's long-lost daughter. Reeling in shock outside, local vagrant Hedge is hit by drunken builder Joe Smeeton's car.
  • Mindhunter: Tench is shown to get behind the wheel after a long night at a police bar many times.
  • There's a non-Anvilicious example in Misfits, where party girl Alisha was a constant drunk driver prior to the show and continued to drive intoxicated even after getting caught and having her license taken away. She hasn't killed anyone or caused any accidents, but she did eventually get caught by the police (again) and, despite performing oral sex on the breathalyser in an attempt to charm the cop (it didn't work - leading her to surmise that he was "gay"), she was sentenced to community service. Even after this, she's shown driving yet again (not drunk this time though) on at least one occasion, but she doesn't get caught.
  • In the first My Name Is Earl Christmas Episode, Earl and Randy got drunk on Christmas Eve years ago. They determined (after Randy mistook the cat for an RC car) that they weren't safe to drive...but they figured they were OK to bike to the liquor store for more beer. They rode (and totally destroyed) the bikes that were meant for Dodge and Earl Jr. Joy was not pleased.
  • My Two Dads: Teased in one 1989 episode, where Nicole and her friends come home drunk. When Michael and Joey learn that the driver of Nicole's car was drunk and Nicole scoffs at the notion that she was in jeopardy of being involved in a serious accident, they decide to teach her a lesson by getting drunk and threaten to go out for a drive. They stop short when Nicole realizes the consequences of her actions.
  • Obliterated is about a black ops squad who decide to celebrate a successful mission by getting severely drunk and/or high, only to get put back on duty because the mission isn't over. Fortunately one of them doesn't drink so at least he's sober...except unknown to everyone the dip on the chips he'd been eating had been spiked with copious amounts of shrooms and LSD. And he's the guy who flies their helicopter.
  • In the pilot episode of The Orville, Ace Pilot Malloy pretends to be drunk while piloting a shuttle. Captain Mercer is not amused, especially when Malloy almost does cause a crash.
  • Drunk driving and killing a kid is what got Tobias Beecher sent to Prison in Oz. Given what happens to him there, it may be the most horrifying Don't Drink and Drive Ad ever.
  • The deaths of the main characters' parents because of a Drunk Driver is the event that starts of Party of Five's plot.
  • On Person of Interest a woman drives while drunk and hits a pedestrian. A ruthless gang of criminals takes drastic action to make sure that she does not go to jail. They need her to help them launder millions of dollars of illicit money.
  • The Pretender: The Christmas Episode "Not Even a Mouse" has Jared (as a coroner) investigating a hit-and-run accident that killed a local homeless man, "Christmas George", who dressed as Santa Claus for the kids. He discovers that one of the other coroners hit him while driving drunk — then, when he arrived at the morgue still alive, she killed him on the autopsy table and made it look like he died in the accident.
  • After drinking a few drinks at a party in Saved by the Bell, Zack and his friends drove drunk and ended up in an accident. Oddly enough, the sober one, Screech, offered to drive but Lisa refused to let him touch the car because he might get into an accident.
  • Grace Hanadarko in Saving Grace thinks she's hit and killed a guy in her car while drunk driving, but it's really a setup from "last chance angel" Earl to get her to give up her life to God. Turns out that the guy she "hit" is in prison...originally for his own drunk driving.
  • Somewhat subverted in Scrubs. JD was walking his motor scooter home after a night at the bar because he was aware that he was too drunk to ride it, but he also had the key in the ignition so he could listen to music, and since that counted as a DUI, the cop that spotted him arrested him on a technicality.
  • In A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017), when Count Olaf's villainous theater troupe is driving on the way to the latest destination and Olaf (not the best driver even on a good day) is freaking the crap out over a very large piece of unwelcome news, he still finds it in his thought process to dismiss this as lunacy.
  • In Sisters, second-oldest sister Teddy is a recovering alcoholic and has fallen off the wagon yet again while grieving the loss of her husband. Initially sympathetic because of the reason she's Off the Wagon, the other sisters and her mother realize she needs serious help when she runs over her nephew while driving drunk (miraculously, he suffers only minor injuries).
  • In one episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, Steve and a companion see a drunkard stumbling through a parking garage, clearly meaning to head home. Steve has his companion go on ahead while the drunk guy is fumbling around, and lifts the guy's back bumper (and presumably drive wheels) off the ground, propping the car on a concrete planter so he can't make any headway. The drunk guy is quite oblivious to his lack of forward motion.
  • On Suits the son of one of the firm's clients hits someone with a car and leaves the scene. The victim dies but there is no evidence that the driver was drinking so Mike is able to get him a nice plea deal where he will serve no jail time. However, Mike then discovers that his client, while not drunk, was actually high on marijuana at the time of the accident. Mike's parents were killed by a drunk driver and he takes it very hard that he helped an impaired driver escape justice for killing someone.
  • In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part Two", Dean, who had been shown to be heavily drinking after his brother's death, speeds down a gravel road, fishtailing the Impala.
  • Played with in That Mitchell and Webb Look in a sketch about MI6 planning the assassination of Princess Diana on the order of Prince Philip (a popular theory, especially in certain tabloids) by getting the driver "slightly tipsy", as it's a well-known fact that getting somebody a little bit drunk results in a 100% death rate.
  • In the 1980s Trauma Center, a completely drunk woman weaves through traffic until she causes a van full of young men to crash off the side, which calls the paramedics to the scene. Fortunately, the cops catch her with a female cop noting that the offender "pickled the breathalyzer."
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "Stopover in a Quiet Town", Millie Frazier had several drinks at a party and drives drunk. Her husband Bob, who was far more drunk than she was, was passed out in the back seat. On the way home, they are abducted by a giant alien and taken to another planet to be his daughter's pets.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985):
    • In "Kentucky Rye", an alcoholic named Bob Spindler and his co-workers celebrate closing a big deal. As ever, Bob has too much to drink and becomes angry when several of his co-workers suggest driving him home or calling him a cab. Instead, he drives drunk, seemingly not for the first time, and runs another car off the road. Bob is injured in the process and seeks refuge in a tavern called the Kentucky Rye. The owner sells him the tavern for $1,600, the last $100 of which is contributed by a strange man. The next morning, Bob wakes up to find the tavern covered in cobwebs and dust. There is no one there except for the strange man. It turns out that the man is the driver of the other car, who was killed when Bob ran him off the road. Bob himself was killed in the accident and is trapped in the Ironic Hell of a deserted bar for all eternity.
    • In "The Once and Future King", Gary Pitkin is driven off the road by a drunk driver and crashes his own car as a result. When he wakes up, he finds that he has been transported back in time to Memphis, Tennessee on July 3, 1954.
    • In "The Hellgramite Method", Dr. Eugene Murrich's wife and two children were killed by a drunk driver while they were crossing the street. The pain that he suffered after their deaths led Dr. Murrich to create the Hellgramite Method, which involves secretly placing a Hellgramite worm in the stomach of alcoholics so that it can absorb their liquor.
  • The West Wing:
    • Subverted in "Celestial Navigation" when a nominee for the Supreme Court is pulled over and arrested for apparent drunk driving. The problem? The nomiee in question does not drink because he has hepatitis and would die if he drank enough alcohol to register on a breath test. He was actually arrested because he's Latino and the cops were profiling him.
    • Played straight in "18th and Potomac" when Mrs. Landingham, the President's secretary, is struck by a drunk driver on her way home. Mrs. Landingham is killed in the accident and the First Lady mentions that the drunk driver will be charged with vehicular manslaughter for it.
  • Cops in The Wire are regularly shown driving to an out-of-the-way spot to chat and get plastered on beer, then driving home. Major Rawls at one point attempts to get revenge on Detective McNulty by pressuring Detective Santangelo to catch him driving under the influence: Santangelo is dismayed; it is implicit that freedom to drive drunk is an unwritten sacred right for Baltimore police.
    • In one of the show's Crowning Moments of Funny, McNulty is driving home drunk, takes a turn too wide and scrapes the side of his car against a freeway support. He stops, gets out, surveys the damage and the scene, and then gets back into the car and reverses around the corner. He then tries to take the turn again and hits the support again.
    Bartender: You ain't getting behind a wheel, are ya?
    McNulty: I'm looking you in the eye, Gus. I'm not driving a car tonight.
  • Many, many of the idiots featured on World's Dumbest... are drivers who get pulled over while drunk. Most of them then try to act like they're not drunk and fail miserably.
    Drunken Idiot: I ain't that [BLEEP]ed up. [falls over]
  • Two occasions in Yes, Minister:
    • In "The Economy Drive," Sir Humphrey fires the department's driver to teach Hacker a lesson about his plans to cut waste, forcing him to drive himself to a function at the French embassy. He doesn't actually make it to the wheel, at least on screen, only because he drops his keys down a sewer grate, with a photograph of him attempting to fish them out leading the Express to describe him as "overwrought as a newt."
    • In the Christmas special "Party Games," The Home Office declares a "don't drink and drive at Christmas" campaign, whose advice a besotted Jim Hacker elects to ignore despite his wife being sober and willing to drive, leading to a police stop on account of his extremely slow driving. This turns out to be small potatoes, however, after it turns out that the Home Secretary himself drove drunk, overturning a lorry carrying nuclear waste on the motorway, and then crashing into a journalist's car; Sir Humphrey jokes that since the press are saying he was "drunk as a Lord," the Government will almost certainly make him one.

  • Country music pioneer Roy Acuff's 1938 song "Wreck On the Highway," the story of a car accident where it is strongly implied that alcohol was involved ("whiskey and blood run together"). It is believed to be the earliest recorded hit song to address drunk driving as a moral and social issue.
  • Lana Del Rey "National Anthem"
    It's a love story for the new age
    For the sixth page
    We're on a quick, sick rampage
    Wining and dining, drinking and driving
    Excessive buying, overdose and dying
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd's song "That Smell" is about an automobile accident while drunk.
  • Wes McGhee's song "Whiskey Is My Driver".
  • The French children’s song "Moi, je pense à Bruno" ("I think of Bruno") by Christian Merveille tells about how the narrator’s friend Bruno died in a car accident, and near the end, it says approximately:
    Today, in a bar, a man empties his glass
    And, shouting very loudly, orders a last one
    Then, stumbling, he returns to his car
    I think of Bruno…
  • In "Den fineste Chevy'n" ("The Prettiest Chevy") by Halva Priset ft. Maria Mena, a mechanic is planning to meet his girlfriend's well-off family. He's nervous because he has to pass himself off as a finance guy, so he goes for some Liquid Courage before the drive... and ends up driving the titular Chevy into a lake.
  • Primus' song "Jerry Was a Race Car Driver'' ends with the eponymous character (a thrill-seeking race car driver) possibly dying due to this.
    Jerry was a race car driver
    22 years old
    One too many cold beers one night
    And wrapped himself around a telephone pole
  • Skid Row'': In "18 And Life" where Kevin Michael Lee replaces Ricky, Kevin does this to dodge jail. His father catches then imprisons him for life due to drunkenly shooting someone then running to resist jail.
  • Steely Dan's "Deacon Blues":
    "Drink scotch whiskey all night long
    And die behind the wheel"
  • Die Toten Hosen "Unter falscher Flagge". It is told in a pirate ship context but rather obvious.
  • "Ricky's Hand" by Fad Gadget starts out as more of a deconstructed ode to intoxication, as the lyrics depict a man named Ricky going out to a bar, but with the seemingly odd gimmick of treating Ricky's hand as the main character in the song instead of the man himself (e.g. "Scratched his head, then pulled his ear / Reached out for a glass of beer / Ricky's hand"). Then the Black Comedy punchline is that he gets in a drunk driving accident and his hand gets separated from the rest of him ("Ricky contravened the highway code /The hand lies severed at the side of the road")
  • "Drinking And Driving" by Black Flag is a sarcastic ode to how "cool" drunk driving is, complete with incorporating car crash sound effects into the music:
    Party down, party down, drinking 'til you can't even see
    Fill your car with your buddies, then wrap it around a tree

    Pro Wrestling 
  • After getting in trouble for public drunkenness, Scott Hall was given a gimmick that amounted to being a sloppy drunk in WCW, which did include at least one crashed car.
  • "Stone Cold" Steve Austin would often be shown riding an ATV after drinking 8 or so Miller Lights. This lead up to Coach in the ring challenging Stone Cold to wrestle him only to learn he had been in an accident.
  • While not driving per se, Ring of Honor still feels the need to put up disclaimers mentioning they discourage the misuse of farm equipment before segments in which The Briscoes operate riding mowers, tractors, and bulldozers in between chugging Natty Light.

  • In one of his stand-up comedy sketches, Coluche had this famous Insane Troll Logic Black Comedy joke:
    "30 per cent of road accidents are due to alcohol. I conclude that 70 per cent of road accidents are due to water."
  • In J.B., J.B.'s second- and third-oldest children, Jonathan and Mary, die from being "smeared across a road by a drunken child," as Nickles later contemptuously puts it.

    Video Games 
  • Deus Ex: Overlapping with Drunken Master with Jock. The first time you meet him piloting the helicopter, you had just seen him at a bar, getting drinks off of you. JC will attempt to call him out for drinking and flying, but Jock claims that the helicopter is difficult to fly "all wound up."
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City has a mission where Tommy has to drive Phil Cassidy to the hospital after a boomshine explosion. Problem is, Tommy is drunk as a result of merely smelling the boomshine. The screen gets blurry and the car randomly swerves to simulate the effects. It's pretty easy to adapt to, though.
    • In the fourth game in the series, you can drive after getting plastered (and indeed, in-game ads for the beer brand Pisswasser encourage this — "Pisswasser, this is beer! Drive drunk, off a pier!"). Niko, however, points out this is an extremely bad idea, and you're going to crash A LOT thanks to Interface Screw (the screen already shakes and blurs if you're standing around; now imagine that at about 50-60 mph, with your controls swerving to the side randomly because your character can't even stand still). You're also very likely to be arrested (any police unit that sees you so much as entering a car while drunk will put one star on your wanted gauge).
    • Though the GTA IV example is realistic in its presentation (and also giving you no positive advantage), it didn't stop MADD from condemning it, claiming it glorifies drunk driving and makes light of a serious issue.
      • Apparently Rockstar listened to them come Grand Theft Auto V. It's pretty much impossible to drive drunk since you sober up in less than a minute. You'll be halfway sober by the time you walk out of the bar, and completely sober by the time you start driving your car. The interface is similar to GTA IV drunk driving for the one second you can drive drunk.
  • HEBEREKE!: March! Red Army Girls Brigade, an H-Game, manages to play this for laughs, by making the drunk person look like (but not actually) a little girl and the vehicle being driven a tank. Yes, a tank. In a military setting, of course. Amusing Injuries being in effect for non-tactical parts helps.
  • In Leisure Suit Larry 1: In the Land of the Lounge Lizards, if you enter a cab while possessing liquor, the driver will down the whole container and crash the cab, killing you both.
    • Also happens in the Updated Re-release Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded:
      Narrator: (after the car crash) Let that be a lesson to you, Larry. The cabbies of this town are notorious drunks. Never enter a cab carrying anything that's obviously alcohol!
  • One of the supporting characters you recruit onto your team in Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is pilot Misha Milanich who you need to perform airstrikes. As mentioned by several characters in game, Misha ONLY flies while completely wasted.
  • In Next Jump SHMUP Tactics, literally all of your pilots drink and spaceship, to the point that you get told what drink they had in their hand when they died. Of course, only two of the seven ships have ranged weapons by default. The antagonists are described as "addicts," and this is apparently what counts for "enjoying responsibly" in The Federation. This might be the justification for the game pulling a cheap death out of its ass.
  • One of the first boss fights in South Park: The Fractured but Whole is against Randy Marsh, who is utterly wasted, for the express purpose of forcing him to give up his keys so he doesn't get nailed for drunk driving again. You end up having to fight him a second time, this time blitzed on red wine ("Red-wine drunk is the worst drunk there is!"), when he comes after you to get his keys back.

    Visual Novels 
  • Monster Prom: Cute Ghost Girl Polly claims that this was how she died. Unlike all the other claims of her death, this time she's not lying- her father was an alcoholic who insisted on driving and got in a crash that killed everyone in the family but himself. Polly still has serious trauma about it, and it's one of the few routes in the game that isn't played for comedy at all.

  • In Dumbing of Age:
    • Billie lost Alice's friendship and the chance to be an Indiana University cheerleader when she drove drunk (while underage!) and crashed into a tree.
    • Ruth's parents were killed by a drunk driver. This makes her feel guilty about her own alcoholism.
  • Lackadaisy: Wick drives after drinking heavily with Mitzi, and Lacy points out that he's driving into the weeds on the wrong side of the road and needs to turn on his headlamps. He claims he was dodging a duck, though there was no actual duck in the road.
  • The Perry Bible Fellowship has a drunk driver crash against a tree, serious enough to cause severe injury or death. By the way, it's also a Clown Car.
  • Schlock Mercenary: At one point, the crew find a man with a drunk driving conviction and turn him in for the bounty. It's actually a capital crime — vehicles all have rigorous safety restrictions and self-driving capability, so any impaired driver has to have made a deliberate premeditated effort, while sober, to disable all the features that would prevent them from endangering themselves and others.
  • A very dramatic example plays out in Roomies, which was then parodied and paid tribute to in Its Walky! and played for laughs in Shortpacked!

    Web Original 
  • On The Edge:
    • The opening to the episode Fast shooting duel starts with one who ran over a 7-year-old girl and took his car to the scrapyard to hide the evidence.
    • The criminal from the episode Torture Sommelier VS Kyogoku Clan Yakuza was driving his boat under the influence and killed both the client's wife and daughter in his way. To make matters worse, the perp had ties with the Yakuza and couldn't be caught until the client turned to Shigeo for help.
  • Texts From Last Night: One exchange has the first person claim they drove just fine the previous night despite tremendous intake of drugs and/or alcohol, only for the other person to reveal they'd just given him/her a paper plate which was used as a steering wheel while they drove.
  • The Walten Files plays this for horror in Bunnyfarm: Felix Kranken, whilst drunk, ends up crashing his car when driving Edd and Molly home from a school party, killing both of them. Before the crash, both Edd and Molly worry Felix is driving too fast whilst Molly asks if he's been drinking and tells him that her teacher says drinking is bad, to which he insists he's just dizzy. Horrified, he buries them both and digs his own grave alongside theirs, sitting in it until daybreak. He then climbs out, throws Edd and Molly's belongings into the nearby river, and comes close to throwing himself off a cliff before backing out of it.

    Western Animation 
  • In the future reality of Futurama a robot can be arrested for his alcohol level being below a legal limit, as Bender was in one episode. (Robots in this series need alcohol to function; if they stop drinking, becoming "sober" is as debilitating for them as intoxication is for humans.)
  • Hey Arnold! ties this in with a recurring routine with Miriam Pataki and her alcoholism. Her daughter's classmates are surprised and worried when she apparently got her driver's license back, and it's casually mentioned at the beginning of another episode that she was starting her community service that morning.
  • Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies:
    • "Dog Gone People," a 1960 short that starred Elmer Fudd (in a rare solo outing) in this satire on corporate culture, political correctness (of the day), and how treating others — in this case, a dog — with kid gloves in an effort to not offend can have unintended consequences. The trope kicks in near the end of the short: During a weekend where Elmer was dog-sitting his boss' mutt, Rupert, as a favor, doggie accidentally gets ahold of some bay rum and gets very drunk. Elmer decides the dog needs to go for a ride to sober up, but somehow the dog gains control of the car and begins speeding through town, causing several accidents. Eventually, a motorcycle officer pulls over Rupert, and both the dog and Elmer are charged with driving while intoxicated. (Elmer, by the way, loses out on a promised promotion ... to Rupert!)
  • Metalocalypse:
    • The episode "Religionklok" happened because Nathan drove the Murdercycle while drunk, accidentally knocking an equally drunk and horsing around Murderface onto the road.
    • "Dethrace" started with Skwisgaar and Toki drunkenly joyriding and causing a high-speed police chase, the coverage preempting Murderface's bass solo.
  • The Simpsons: The plot driver for several episodes:
    • "Mr. Plow" began with Homer becoming drunk at Moe's Tavern and attempting to drive home in a snowstorm. He ends up rear-ending a car ... the family station wagon parked in his driveway! Both his and the station wagon are heavily damaged and inoperable as a result. In the next scene, Homer tries to file an insurance claim but after letting slip he was at Moe's, the adjuster asks him what type of business Moe's is. After Homer-think tells him to not say that Moe's is a Tavern, he says aloud: "It's a pornography store. I was buying pornography!"
    • In "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken", Homer and his buddies go drinking and drive into the school, thus destroying part of it. This leads to a curfew being put on the children and teens of Springfield, because the police assume it was the work of young vandals - despite the car leaving a clear trail from the school to Homer's front lawn.
    • In "Days of Wine and D'Ohses", Homer and Marge get very drunk, and Homer attempts to drive them home but gets into an accident. Not wanting to get arrested, he switches seats with Marge, causing her to go to jail instead. Bart and Lisa, however, are wise enough to know that Homer was probably the one behind the wheel (the steering wheel had been adjusted to accommodate for his gut), and confront him about it.
    • Parodied when Lisa drinks milk at Moe's in "The Burns and the Bees". Moe was reluctant to give her the keys to her bike lock; he wasn't even sure why he had them in the first place.
    • In "Duffless," after a tour of the Duff factory, Barney is clearly drunk, so Homer, buzzed at worst, insists on driving and is immediately pulled over by Wiggum at the gates. Homer passes the field test, but Barney slurs out to do a breath test, which Homer fails, so the police arrest Homer and put Barney behind the wheel; he immediately hits Wiggum.
  • South Park:
    • In the episode "Bloody Mary", Randy Marsh gets arrested for drunk driving and is forced to attend Alcoholics Anonymous.
    • In the episode "Christmas Snow" the entire town indulges in drunk driving revelry over the Christmas holiday season, leading to numerous crashes. In response, the town bans alcohol sales until January... so the townspeople resort to getting high off of Tegridy Farms' marijuana instead, leading to even more crashes.
  • In the long-banned Tiny Toon Adventures segment "One Beer", Buster, Plucky, and Hampton share a beer from the fridge, steal a police car, and drive off Death Mountain, crashing into a graveyard, whence their souls fly off to heaven.


Video Example(s):


"Got Him As Good As He Got Me"

When driving home drunk at night during a snow storm, Homer accidentally rear ends the back of a car. Despite his car being wrecked, he looks on the bright side that he got the other car just as bad...until he saw that it was MARGE's station wagon, in their own driveway!

How well does it match the trope?

4.47 (19 votes)

Example of:

Main / ConsolationBackfire

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