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How Police Officers Spot Suspected Drunk Drivers

How Police Officers Spot Suspected Drunk Drivers

The police must have “reasonable suspicion” that a crime has happened, is currently occurring, or will occur soon in order to make a traffic stop for suspected DUI/DUAC. But how can an officer identify that a person is breaking the law by how he/she is driving? 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has compiled more than 100 visual cues for detecting drunk drivers, according to extensive research and officer interviews involving 12,000 DUI stops. Law enforcement officials believe that drivers who display any of these signs indicate a potential DUI offense. 

The following are the four major categories of driving behavior police officer look for when spotting suspected drunk drivers: 

  • Difficulty staying within a driving lane – Issues with maintaining the correct lane position can be an indication of intoxicated driving. Common examples include swerving, weaving through different lanes, making very wide turns, and driving towards one side of the road. 

  • Judgment issues – When you are driving, you must continually make many judgments while behind the wheel – from properly switching lanes to gauging speed and distance. Impaired drivers often take more risks compared to sober drivers, such as making unsafe lane changes, making illegal turns, or even following the car in front of them too closely (i.e., tailgating). 

  • Awareness problems – An overall lack of awareness or vigilance – such as failing to notice traffic signs and driving conditions – is another sign of impaired driving. Common examples include delayed responses to traffic signals and signs, driving on the wrong side of the road, or driving at night without the headlights on. 

  • Braking and speed issues – Judging distance and speed can be quite challenging for intoxicated motorists. Common examples include stopping too soon or well beyond a limit line, driving at varying speeds, and sudden acceleration or deceleration for no reason whatsoever. 

Once an officer makes a traffic stop, he/she needs to have “probable cause” to make an arrest. Common signs of intoxication that can help law enforcement officials establish probable cause include the smell of alcohol coming from the driver’s breath or vehicle, slurred speech, delayed responses to questions, and lack of motor skills. 

If you were recently arrested in Lexington or Columbia for a DUI or DUAC, contact the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC today at (803) 359-3301 for a free case evaluation. 


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