The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration compiled a list consisting of more than 100 visual cues for detecting drivers under the influence of alcohol and drugs, based on research and interviews of law enforcement officials making tens of thousands of DUI arrests throughout the country. Divided into four categories, police officers believe these signs are a common indicator of drunk driving.
The following are the four main signs of intoxication prior to the police making a traffic stop:
- Speed and brake issues – Intoxicated motorists typically experience problems with judge distance and speed while operating a vehicle. Common speeding issues include suddenly accelerating or decelerating for no reason, failing to drive at a consistent speed, and driving well below or above the posted speed limit.
- Issues maintaining a steady position within a driving lane – Impaired drivers have a hard time staying within their own driving lane on the road. Common indicators of problems staying in a driving lane include swerving, weaving in and out of traffic, drifting toward one side of the road, and making an extremely wide turn.
- Judgment problems – All licensed drivers must constantly make safe decisions when they operate their vehicles. However, drunk drivers are more prone to taking risks compared to safer motorists. Common examples of judgment problems include tailgating, making illegal turns, making unsafe lane changes, and driving off-road.
- Awareness and vigilance problems – Another common indicator of drunk driving is failing to notice road conditions, including traffic signs and traffic movement. Common examples of a lack of awareness include driving at night without using headlights, driving the wrong way, using the wrong turn signal to change lanes or make turns, braking or driving slowly for no reason, or a delayed response to traffic signals.
Once an officer establishes reasonable suspicion to pull an individual over due to traffic violations or erratic driving behavior, there are several other visual cues to help the officer establish probable cause. Common signs of driver intoxication include an odor of alcohol, open alcohol containers, delayed answers to questions, slurring, and inadequate motor skills.
It is important to understand that law enforcement needs to have a reason to make a traffic stop in the first place. So, if you are obeying the traffic laws, driving at a safe speed, and mindful of your surroundings, there is no reason for the police to pull you over.