Is Huffing While Driving a Reportable Offense?

Recently, I wrote a post about a young female driver illegally holding her cell phone up to her ear and talking on it while driving, without using a hands-free device or the speakerphone. I included pictures of the offender. There was a split of opinion in the comments as to whether it was useful to try to change the behavior of such drivers by photographing them, speaking to them, and highlighting them on L.A. Metblogs. Today, I saw a guy huffing behind the wheel. I’d like to know what, if anything, readers think should be done about him.

This afternoon, I was returning to my parked car at a store off of Washington Boulevard in Culver City, when a large black SUV pulled in so close next to my car that I had to wait for the female passenger to get out of the SUV before I could open my door. I walked to the passenger side of my car to put something inside. As I did so, I looked at the SUV to make sure the woman getting out didn’t smack my door with hers. As I was watching, I saw the man in the driver’s seat of the SUV hold a large plastic bag up to his nose and mouth, and inhale. They both exited the SUV and walked into the store. When I came around to the driver’s side of my car, I glanced inside the SUV and saw a large clear plastic bag, like the kind you get from a dry cleaners, knotted at one end.

Now, I don’t mean to play Nancy Drew or Agent Cody Banks.  I’m really not on the lookout for this type of behavior. If I could come up with another explanation for what the SUV driver was doing, I would give him the benefit of the doubt. I suppose there’s a one-in-a-million chance that he was innocently tying a plastic bag with his teeth for some reason (talk about hands-free), or maybe he was having a panic or hiccup attack and had to hyperventilate, just once, for a second. I have no predisposition to look out for huffers. I have never seen anyone do this, and it’s never on my mind. I just know what I saw, and I was very disturbed to see someone do something which could make him a 6,500 pound menace on the roads.

I know the make and model of the SUV, and the license plate (which was an easy to remember vanity plate).  However, unlike the illegal cell phone chatterers, I did not think this was a useful situation in which to feature the SUV, its driver, and/or its license plate here on L.A. Metblogs, or to communicate directly with the driver.

So, if this happened to you, would you do anything about it?  Would you call the cops?  Would you simply try to steer clear of the driver?  Would it make a difference if the driver was drinking alcohol, or doing some other kind of drugs behind the wheel?

By the way, I could have written instead about my Rutger Hauer sighting nearby less than an hour later (think wrinkles and bleached blonde hair), but I felt that this huffing post was more important.

17 Replies to “Is Huffing While Driving a Reportable Offense?”

  1. what no pic…no pic and it didn’t happen is how people view these allegations sad to say.

    My two shiny bits…if they drive drunk, coked, stoned or whatever its an arrestable offense. Ditto huffing.

    Are you sure it wasn’t an asthma inhaler? Just saying when it does get hot and humit those inhalers work over time.

  2. I didn’t take pics because the car was right outside the store’s big front window and there was a good chance the driver would have seen me.

  3. Please, please, please tell us about your Rutger Hauer sighting! I am a rabid fan, wrinkles or not :)

  4. My opinion is leave these people alone. It is a dumb law – all laws that tell people what they can’t do to “protect” them are dumb. Make driving badly illegal, and then if people are using a cellphone or whatever and are driving badly, give them a ticket. But otherwise leave them alone.

  5. Ole — are you referring to driving while cell phoning or driving while drinking/drugging/huffing? If the latter, would you seriously recommend that, if a cop sees a driver drinking alcohol or smoking crack while driving, but the driver isn’t weaving at that moment, the cop should just leave him alone?

  6. Perhaps Ole is the one who’s huffing. Are you kidding me??? In this case the law covering not huffing and driving isn’t there to protect the huffer, it’s to protect ME! Not all of those laws are “dumb.”

    Matt, you should have called the PD on the spot. Given them the make, model, plate and location. Hopefully an officer would have shown up before their departure, followed long enough for probable cause, and their day could’ve ended in a set of handcuffs.

    I’m a libertarian about things like drug laws, as long as those people only pose a danger to themselves. As soon as they endanger others, all bets are off.

  7. Now, if you had seen Rutger Hauer huffing in an SUV…holy CRAP! that would’ve been a story. Of course, that’s definitely one where I’d have to call “pics or it didn’t happen.”

  8. I dunno. You said this guy’s face was in a bag and he appeared to be inhaling. So the immediate conclusion is that he was huffing?

    Could he have been spitting tobacco, or puking?

    That said, no, I wouldn’t have called the cops. They probably wouldn’t respond for at least an hour.

  9. David — the only extra detail you left out is that the bag was transparent and extremely thin, so I would have seen it if anything was being projected into the bag. But as I wrote, there is some possibility, albeit extremely slim, that he was doing something other than huffing.

  10. Hmmm…I still don’t know if I would have bothered calling. The bigger issue here is ole9 thinking under the influence is somehow there to punish abusers not protect society at large from them when they get behind the wheel.

  11. Snitches get stitches. I’m gunna have to go with believing they were chewing sunflower seeds or the like. Like most drugs, it’d be a waste of a high to just do that while driving and running errands.

  12. The guy in the BMW front of me on Olympic the other day was smoking a joint. I felt no urge to phone the cops on him but I might change my mind if he had a bag up to his face. It seems like huffing and driving would just be hard to do, as the bag might blow in your face or you could pass out.

    I would point out that doing ANYTHING except driving when behind the wheel is probably not a good idea.

  13. Jesus Christ, get a hobby already. Or sign up for the LAPD academy. Or get laid. Surely you have better things to do and write about.

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