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What signs of drunk driving might police officers look for?

Police officers need to have reasonable suspicion to stop a car. They are not supposed to make random traffic stops and then look for something the driver was doing wrong after the fact. For instance, an officer couldn’t just pull over every car that comes down a certain road, administering breath tests until they find someone who has been drinking. They need to have a reason to stop that car first.

In some cases, officers will look for adjacent issues. Maybe the car has a headlight out or perhaps the registration is expired. They may be able to find a valid reason to stop the car and go from there. But in other cases, they will look for distinct signs of drunk driving.

Potential signs of impairment

When police officers choose this route, here are some of the signs of impairment they may look for:

  1. A driver who reacts slowly to conditions around them 
  2. A car that is drifting back and forth in the lane, or even straddling the centerline. 
  3. A driver who gets involved in a near miss or looks like they are about to crash. 
  4. Someone whose speed is erratic, as they keep hitting the brakes or the gas without warning. 
  5. Someone who is excessively breaking the speed limit or perhaps driving well below it.
  6. A vehicle that doesn’t have its lights on, even after dark.

Drivers could make these mistakes without being intoxicated, of course. But the officer will use something like this as a reason to pull over the vehicle. Those who wind up getting arrested must understand their legal options. 



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