What Do Police Officers Look For When Searching For Drunk Drivers?

by Aaron Black • December 30, 2011

The police look for approximately 20 different signs of impaired driving in addition to many other civil driving infractions when patrolling for drunk drivers.

Many police officers sit in bar parking lots. They know people leaving the bar are intoxicated, but they cannot just pull someone over based on a hunch. They need to see a traffic violation first. Many police will just wait for someone to turn out of the parking lot without signaling, have a cracked windshield, or a burnt out license plate light.

Most DUI arrests occur at night or on the weekends. Below is a list of factors, in order of probability, that police use to determine if a person is driving while impaired at night. This list is based upon research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Here are the top 20 things police officers look for when searching for drunk drivers:

  1. Turning with a wide radius
  2. Straddling the center of the lane marker
  3. "Appearing to be drunk"
  4. Almost striking an object
  5. Weaving
  6. Driving on other than designated highway
  7. Swerving
  8. Speed more than 10mph below the speed limit
  9. Stopping for no reason in traffic
  10. Following too closely
  11. Drifting
  12. Tires on lane marker
  13. Erratic Braking
  14. Driving into oncoming traffic
  15. Inconsistent signaling
  16. Slow response to traffic signals
  17. Stopping inappropriately 
  18. Turning abruptly or illegally
  19. Accelerating of Decelerating rapidly
  20. No headlights

Something to note is that speeding is not a sign of impaired driving identified by NHTSA. However, many prosecutors argue speeding occurred because alcohol consumption diminished the person's judgment and increased their risk taking behavior. Most police officers will easily admit sober people regularly drive 10 mph over the speed limit late at night in light traffic.

If you have been stopped for DUI based on one or more of the outlined factors listed above contact Phoenix DUI Defense Attorney Aaron Back for a free case evaluation 480-729-1683.

In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to inform clients and potential clients I am still available for consultations. I am always available by phone, text and/or email. We can also use Facetime for social distancing. The criminal justice system is not stopping due to COVID-19.

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