Dec. 3, 2010 -- "Teenager Killed in Drunk Driving Accident" is a heartbreaking, all-too-familiar headline. Statistics show that an average of four people under the age of 21 die every day in alcohol-related crashes, according to the Century Council, a distillers' group against drunk driving. We couldn't help but wonder -- how many of those lives been saved by someone's intervention?
On a damp, late fall day, we sent our "What Would You Do?" team armed with hidden cameras to the town of Montclair, N.J., to put people to the test. Would anyone who sees an obviously drunk teen trying to climb behind the wheel step in and prevent him from driving away?
First, we send our young actor, Nick, stumbling along the sidewalk to his parked car, keys in hand. It doesn't take long for someone to notice our tipsy teen and lend a helping hand.
Our first Good Samaritan approaches our actor, asking, "You all right?"
Falling to the ground, Nick mumbles, "I'm fine, bro."
The man persists, asking, "You drunk?"
"No, I'm perfectly fine," Nick answers.
The man doesn't buy it and gets straight to the point.
"You don't look perfectly fine. You can't drive like this," he says.
When Nick falls to the ground, the man calmly leads him to a nearby chair and pleads with him to "relax," saying he has no intention of letting him drive in his current condition. But when our actor insists on leaving, the man guides him back to his seat and calls 911.
But instead of the police, we show up. Our host, John Quinones, asks, "So what happened?" The man replies, "Your instincts just tell you, you know, just to help this guy out."
Not everyone who sees our intoxicated teen offers to help. In fact, several people walk right on by as our actor falls to the ground after dropping his keys. But as our day continues, it's clear that more and more people want to help out, and in more ways than one.
One woman looks on from across the street in disbelief, uncertain what to do. After seeing Nick fall as he staggers into his car, she picks up her phone and dials 911. When we catch up with her, we learn that she has a deeply personal reason to get involved.
Offered a Ride
"A family friend of ours just died like a week ago. Got hit by a car. Um, 21 years old. So when I saw that I, I am like, there's no way in hell that I'm gonna have him drive… and kill… and take someone else's life," she said.
Soon after, another woman jumps into action as Nick stumbles towards the driver's side of his car. She stands next to the car and asks him if he's drunk or on drugs.
Despite Nick's refusal, she tells him point blank that he "cannot drive a car." But instead of calling the police, this lay preacher offers him a ride, and the two of them slowly head down the street arm-in-arm.
"The only thing that was on my mind was, do I try and give him help?" she says. "There was absolutely no way he was going to get in that car and drive."
After more than half of the people who observed our actor's drunken behavior tried to intervene in some way, we decided to bring in another actor, Elana, a teenage girl.
At first, it seems few people notice her as she trips on the sidewalk or leans unsteadily against her car door. One woman nearly runs into her, but is so frightened, she turns completely around and walks in the other direction. Still, we see that she eventually calls police once she's, as she described to us later, "a safe distance away."
Two men sitting in a restaurant across the street who saw Elana fall down as she climbed into her car approach her and ask if she's all right. She manages to convince them she's fine, and the men depart.
And then another man who witnessed the same fall decides to take matters into his own hands. At first he jokes with Elana about her current drunken state. Then he tries to reason with her.
He asks her, "Don't you have somebody who you can call? Some friend or somebody who could come and..."
"I'm going to pick up a friend right now. I'm totally fine," she replies.
But then, the man sees an opportunity. When Elana accidentally drops her car keys, the man quickly grabs them and says, "Let me hold on to these."
'You Don't Just Sit There'
Minutes later, he helps her across the street and guides her to a nearby bench.
He tells us, "I knew she wasn't right. At that point, you gotta' step in. It's just, you have to."
When our host asks him why, he replies, "When you can do something, you do something. You don't just sit there and say, well someone else'll do it, not me."
Later that day, we mix things up by first having one of our actors play drunk and the other sober and then having both actors play drunk. How would passersby respond?