How Police Identify Drunk Driving

Have you every wondered how police officers identify drunk driving? In today’s episode Chuck goes through the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s night time DUI detection cues. He discusses what police are looking for when they are looking for impaired drivers. He also discusses what behaviors are used to identify drunk driving that might get you pulled over when you aren’t impaired.

How Police Identify Drunk Driving

I’m going to talk on a topic, it’s another DUI topic. But to tell you folks who insist on drinking and driving or riding. The police are out there Friday or Saturday night, or actually all the time. But what are they looking for?

I have to read from this list because it’s exhaustive.  This is the 24 NHTSA which is the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s Night-Time DUI Detection Cues that police officers are looking for when you are driving to identify drunk driving.

One is weaving, that’s pretty obvious. Weaving across lane lines, that’s pretty  obvious. Straddling a lane line, obvious again. Swerving.

But here’s one where I can walk outside and sit here on a corner and watch that nine out of ten people will make a wide right turn, or a wide left turn.  In other words, you were taught a long time ago when you took your driving test, when you make a right turn you pull into the lane closest to you. When you make a left turn across an intersection, you pull into the lane still closest to you going in the direction to your left.

When you make the wide turn, in other words you don’t get in the lane closest to you, you will get pulled over at night. But during the day, I don’t think I’ve every heard, from a client or otherwise, anybody who has ever been pulled over during the day for doing that. That is probably the most significant, most repeated offense I see in police reports for the reason of a stop of a DUI suspected driver in this valley.

Drifting, that’s swerving. Almost striking an object, that’s pretty  self explanatory.

Stopping problems. The first thing that gets affected when you drink, believe it or not, is your hearing. The next thing is your judgement. So when a light turns red, and you’re approaching it, it doesn’t register. It’s a delayed registration, if you will, of your brain seeing it. Then you hit the breaks late. That’s a NHTSA Night-Time Driving Cue. Or hitting them so late that you can’t stop except maybe half way into the crosswalk, past the stop lane. That’s another clue.

Varying speed. In other words you’re accelerating and decelerating. Believe it or not, speeding is not one of the cues but going slow is. In other words being too careful. Going under the speed limit.

Driving in opposing lanes, or wrong way on a one-way street. Well, no kidding. Slow response to traffic signals, what I just told you.

Slow response or failure to respond to a police officer’s emergency lights. Now see this is a big cue now. There is already a reason for a stop, a police officer has determined. He turns on his lights, and you simply it doesn’t register or you’re not looking in your mirrors. You don’t know what’s going on around you. Your lack of situational awareness, because the next thing that goes besides your judgement is you start getting tunnel vision. The more impaired you get, the more your vision gets narrower and narrower, tunnel like.

Following too closely. That’s another big one that I see a lot of stops for that reason alone.

An improper or unsafe lane change. That could be as simple as darting behind somebody, changing lanes abruptly, not using your turn signal.

A fast or a jerky turn. In other words, a last minute turn. Again going back to, oh my god, I need to turn right here, and you do it at the last possible moment. Presumably a little too fast, but it is noticeable.

Inappropriate or  unusual behavior which I have had plenty of situations where passengers have been disruptive in a car, the driver is trying to deal with it, and a police officer notices it because there is some herky-jerky action going on with the vehicle so he makes a stop. Usually a check-welfare stop if he sees people arguing or he can somehow tell that.

Appearing to be impaired. I’ve got a problem with that one. I did have this happen 25 years ago. A police officer pulled up next to a client, and the client rolled down his window, and said officer, do you know where so and so business is. The police officer told him sure, it’s up there to the right. The police officer articulated that the client appeared to be drunk. The court later on ruled that it was a bad stop.

Somebody’s facial expressions in and of themselves is not enough to stop someone. Now, everybody in Arizona has tinted windows in their car, which makes it even harder to see into the car at night. If an officer articulates that he appeared to be impaired with just a visual of a driver, that’s not enough probable cause or reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed to stop somebody and then start working on your probable cause. That I would consider a bad stop, and I think most courts would as well too.

So keep in mind that the biggest things are you – throw that phone aside. If you’re in a car, and you’ve been drinking, take that phone and turn it off, stick it in the back seat, don’t be looking at it. Because if you’re sitting there looking at your phone and trying to drive when you’ve had a couple of drinks, you’re not going to drive well. You’re not going to be able to stay in the lane that you are supposed to be driving in, which you can’t anyhow if you’re texting or looking at a telephone. But man if you’ve been drinking, take that phone and get rid of it so it is not within arms reach. That way you won’t be tempted into grabbing it. Have your hands at ten and two o’clock and focus.

Focus on what you are doing. You make that left turn, you turn into the lane closest to you. You make that right turn, you do that same thing. Anticipate that light changing. Try, and I’m not advocating drinking and driving folks, especially if you are impaired, but if you find yourself in that situation now you know the reasons for stops and what police officers are looking for.

The best way to do it, especially now with the advent of Uber and Lift is, if you have been drinking, have a great time. Leave the car parked and just call Uber, Lift, a cab, a friend, whoever and play it safe. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper doing that, you don’t risk your job, your livelihood, a whole bunch of money, incarceration time, and being labeled a criminal. That’s the best way to go.

Thank you.

Have You Been Charged With Driving Under The Influence?

If you have been pulled over for driving under the influence after a police officer was bale to identify drunk driving cues, you need an experienced lawyer to help you fight for your rights. If any of these cues were used improperly to identify drunk driving, your rights may have been violated. An experienced law firm will investigate a stop and look for any situations where your rights have been violated during the stop. Call Chuck today to discuss the specifics of your case at 480-545-0700!