• A friend of mine works as a customer-service representative at a Fortune 500 company.
  • A few days ago, his company held their annual winter holiday party at an expensive restaurant in the city.
  • Near the end of the party, four hours after it had started, he noticed a 34-year old female executive, hunched over near the fire escape. Obviously, she had too much to drink.
  • He approached her, and asked her how much she had to drink. She replied, "Not much. Just three beers, a sex on the beach, and two shots of tequila." My friend said that she's 5'10", approximately 150 lbs.
  • After some back and forth, he offered her a ride home. She said, "No thanks. I have a boyfriend." He smiled, and said, "No, you don't understand. I'm concerned about your health. You're not fit to drive. I insist." Again, she declined, and she insinuated that there would be strings attached to the car ride home. Again, he dismissed such suggestions, and then offered to summon an Uber. Again she declined.
  • Nearly an hour later, when the party officially ended, she hopped into her Porsche Cayenne and drove off. Fifteen miles later, she crashed into a stop sign and suffered serious, though non-life-threatening, maxiofacial injuries.

So what should the workplace have done in this situation? Did my friend do all that he could for his coworker? Or was there more that he could have done?


I believe that your friend should have been more insistent, even to the point of taking the keys away and enlisting someone in senior management to help take care of the problem.

Another alternative would be to speak to the restaurant management. Any restaurant that serves alcohol should have staff who are trained to deal with exactly this type of situation. This can also lessen the impact that being co-workers introduces.

At the end of it all, this is a life threatening situation, as you can clearly see the actual outcome could have been much worse if the driver had hit a pedestrian or another car instead of a stop sign. That type of situation requires stronger action.


If I see one of our people manifestly unfit to drive, I WOULD physically take the keys from them to prevent them from driving but that would be an absolute last resort based on my judgement call that this person is about to hurt themselves and that's the only way I could think of at the time to stop them from hurting themselves and others. There are other strategies that are available:

  1. Physically position yourself between the person of interest and the car door and either call or have someone call the cops or the top management. As long as your butt is resting against the car door's key slot, the person can't open the door. If the person of interest is already in the car, try to reach inside and cover the ignition slot with your hand. Do not use more force than necessary to prevent the person from driving away. If you are too late and/or the person of interest is too strong for you and the person of interest is driving away, call the cops.

  2. Given that the management is sponsoring the holiday party and that the party is an official company function, the management of the company may have a duty to intervene with the person of interest given the employer-employee relationship involved, which falls under the doctrine of special relationship. The management has an incentive to intervene because having a clearly inebriated employee drive off a company function won't look good for the company in a court of law. Have one of the top management instruct the person not to drive and have the person understand that the top management will call the cops if the person tries to get into their car. Have the top management offer to drive the person home.

  3. Given that the party took place in a restaurant, the restaurant's management would have a clear incentive to intervene i.e. the possible loss of its liquor license plus legal liability, if a clearly inebriated patron were driving off the premises. Have the management of the restaurant intervene and prevent the person of interest from driving home. The restaurant can have one of their employees offer to drive the person of interest home or call a cab on behalf of the person of interest.

  4. Your friend should have asked a couple of others to back him up. The person of interest would have less likely to be in denial if she sees a consensus around her that she is in no shape to drive.

The person of interest's judgement was clearly impaired by her condition. Your friend should not have merely taken her "no" for an answer and should have called for others to back him up. Having the boyfriend get involved is not a bad idea but two pre-conditions must be met: 1. He is actually present at the party - and there is no indication that he is; and 2. He himself is not drunk as a loon.

I expect that there will be several answers but I think they will all be based on the premise that she can't be allowed to get into her car and that physical contact with her to prevent her from harming herself and others is an absolute last resort to be applied when no other alternatives are available.

Your friend's mistake was in trying to resolve the situation alone, by himself. He was operating blind, in total ignorance of the options available to him.

  • +1: Thanks for your great answer. If possible, would you mind voting to reopen the question? Thanks, man. – Jim G. Dec 29 '14 at 12:48
  • When a woman says "no", she means "no". Or so I am told. – gnasher729 Jan 22 '17 at 22:35

Contrary to what seems to be prevailing opinion, my advice would be to simply not get involved.

  1. The person is a superior and [presumably] quite powerful in the company, so it's unwise to do something that could be taken as inappropriate or offensive.

    • Such as seeming to come on to an executive ... or at the very least, having it perceived that way in her alcohol-impaired judgement.
  2. The person is a fully grown adult, both capable of and legally expected to make her own decisions and be responsible for the consequences of them.

    • It's one thing to point out or politely suggest to a person that they may not be fit to drive, but trying to insist on getting the keys or providing a ride is a whole other matter.

    • Insisting that a drunk give up his/her keys/take a cab/etc., basically never works anyway - at least I've never seen it work, short of physical force or subterfuge, and I've seen a lot of drunk people.

  3. Alcohol makes people act erratically and distorts perceptions and memories, which adds risk, especially for men.

    • I sure wouldn't put myself at risk of being accused of being sexually inappropriate, considering how devastating that can be, even in the absence of any evidence. (And putting yourself alone with a drunk women massively increases the chances of that happening.)

If you decide to get involved anyway, a subordinate approaching a superior is a likely fruitless approach anyway, so don't take that approach. A better approach would be to be approach one her peers, or friends, or superiors who is thinking straight and appraise them of the situation. These people are much more likely to be able to influence the drunk in question, so pass the task off. Much more likely to have the desired effect, less risky, and possibly even something that will be appreciated and/or remembered in the morning.

  • 3
    Rank matters little when one has an opportunity to prevent someone doing something incredibly stupid. It's not just the driver's life we're taking about in that kind of situation. Further, adults under the influence have been known to be less capable of making rational and sound decisions. – Makoto Dec 25 '14 at 2:19
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    @HopelessN00b : In my country you can go in jail if someone you know is drunk and kill himself or another person in a car crash because you didn’t prevented him/her from driving while he/she was drunk (someone can fill a lawsuit against you if there are bad injuries, but is someone dies, the state tend to do it) (provided you also know he/she was drunk at that time and you also know he/she wanted to drive). Notice it is legally fine here to let someone drunk to drive... as long as nothing serious happens... – user2284570 Mar 25 '15 at 14:20
  • This isn't about company politics or legal responsibility. It's about the duty of care we all have towards any other human being. If you see someone about to step off a cliff, you stop them. Though I might make an exception in the case of someone who was a big enough twerp to drive a Porsche Cayenne. – Laurence Payne Dec 26 '15 at 13:18
  • @LaurencePayne Ah yes, the duty we all have to be a sucker. What's it to me if some stranger wants to commit suicide? In that spirit, if you want to be a fool, feel free. It's no skin off my nose if you want to step off a cliff by messing with a drunk executive. I've already done a lot more than I'd normally do by advising against making a stupid decision that can't possibly work out well. – HopelessN00b Dec 28 '15 at 17:04
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    The old rule: No good deed goes unpunished. The way this was described, it was an executive (powerful in the company), drunk, incapable of judgement, insisting that the good samaritan probably wants sex with her, so the guy was in grave danger of being fired for sexual harassment. – gnasher729 Jan 22 '17 at 22:32

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