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The Signs of Impaired Driving That Police Look For

By stladmin on April 30, 2024

Liquor dripping onto car keys.

Driving under the influence (DUI) charges come with many consequences and can significantly impact the lives of the accused. DUI convictions can lead to legal trouble, tarnish one’s reputation, affect employment opportunities, and increase insurance premiums. Understanding the consequences of DUI charges can help promote public safety and help individuals avoid being caught in the criminal justice system.

Common Signs of Impaired Driving

Substances impair judgment and coordination, affecting decision-making and physical control while driving. Alcohol, drugs, and medications disrupt cognitive functions, leading to poor judgment, risky behaviors, and decreased motor skills. This impairment can result in reckless driving, erratic maneuvers, and an increased likelihood of accidents.

Law enforcement officers are trained to be vigilant of and identify various signs of impaired driving to determine if a driver may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These signs can be organized into four categories: problems with steering, speed and braking issues, impaired alertness, and impaired judgment.

Steering Problems

Substances can impair a person’s coordination, leading to a diminished ability to maneuver a car and maintain proper lane position on the road:

  • Weaving: The vehicle moves from side to side within its lane, resembling a weaving motion.
  • Crossing Lane Lines: The vehicle’s tires cross the marked lines that separate lanes.
  • “Straddling” a Lane Line: The vehicle’s tires are positioned partially in one lane and partially in another, not fully within either lane.
  • Swerving: The vehicle makes sudden and erratic movements, veering sharply from one direction to another, potentially endangering nearby vehicles or pedestrians.
  • Turning Too Wide: The vehicle takes turns with an excessive radius, encroaching onto adjacent lanes or curbs.
  • Drifting: The vehicle gradually moves out of its lane without abrupt or intentional maneuvers, suggesting reduced attention or control over the vehicle’s trajectory.
  • Nearly Hitting a Vehicle or Object: The vehicle comes close to colliding with another vehicle, stationary object, or pedestrian, indicating poor judgment, impaired perception, or delayed reactions.

Speed and Braking Problems

The impaired coordination can also lead to problems with reaction time or sensitivity to speed and when to brake:

  • Difficulty Stopping: The driver exhibits challenges in maintaining appropriate control while stopping the vehicle, either stopping abruptly, hesitating excessively, or braking in a choppy, inconsistent manner.
  • Accelerating or Decelerating for No Reason: The driver increases or decreases the vehicle’s speed without apparent cause or justification, such as changes in traffic conditions or road features.
  • Varying Speed: The vehicle’s speed fluctuates inconsistently, either accelerating or decelerating at irregular intervals, without adherence to the prevailing traffic flow or road conditions.
  • Driving Too Slowly: The driver operates the vehicle far slower than the posted speed limit or traffic flow, impeding the safe and efficient movement of vehicles.

Impaired Alertness

Law enforcement looks for cues that potentially suggest impaired alertness caused by intoxication, such as:

  • Driving in the Oncoming Lane or Going the Wrong Way on a One-Way Street: The vehicle is observed traveling in the opposite direction or navigating a one-way street in the wrong direction.
  • Slow Response to Traffic Signals (e.g., Sitting at a Green Light): The driver fails to promptly react to traffic signals, such as remaining stationary when the traffic signal indicates movement is permitted (e.g., green light).
  • Slow Response to an Officer’s Signals: The driver exhibits a delayed or inadequate response to signals or commands issued by law enforcement officers, such as failing to pull over promptly when signaled.
  • Stopping in the Lane for No Apparent Reason: The vehicle comes to a halt while positioned within a travel lane without any discernible justification or indication of an emergency or intended action.
  • No Headlights at Night: The vehicle is operated in low-light conditions without activating its headlights, potentially compromising visibility for the driver and other road users.
  • Failure to Use a Turn Signal or Misusing It: The driver neglects to signal their intended maneuvers or utilizes turn signals inconsistently or incorrectly, failing to communicate their intentions to other road users.

Impaired Judgment

Signs of impaired judgment associated with intoxication include:

  • Following Too Closely: The vehicle maintains insufficient distance behind the vehicle in front, risking a collision if the leading vehicle brakes suddenly.
  • Improper or Unsafe Lane Changes: The driver executes lane changes without adequate signaling, checking blind spots, or ensuring sufficient clearance.
  • Illegal or Improper Turns (e.g., Turning Too Fast): The driver performs turns that violate traffic laws or execute turns at excessive speeds.
  • Driving off the Roadway: The vehicle travels onto the area beside or beyond the designated roadway.
  • Stopping Inappropriately in Response to an Officer (e.g., Swerving off the Road When the Siren Comes On): The driver reacts to law enforcement signals or presence in an unsafe or erratic manner, such as abruptly stopping or swerving off the road.
  • Inappropriate or Unusual Behavior in the Car (e.g., Arguing or Throwing Things): Passengers or the driver engage in disruptive or erratic behavior within the vehicle, potentially distracting the driver and compromising safety.
  • Appearing to Be Impaired: The driver exhibits physical or behavioral signs commonly associated with intoxication or impairment, such as slurred speech, unsteady movements, or impaired coordination.

Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)

Law enforcement officers often use field sobriety tests (FSTs) to assess a driver’s level of impairment. These tests typically include tasks such as walking in a straight line, standing on one leg, and following a moving object with the eyes. The results of these tests, along with other observations and evidence, can be used to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest.

How an Experienced DUI Criminal Defense Attorney in Gillette Can Help

A Campbell County criminal defense lawyer works to safeguard your rights and interests when accused of driving drunk. They meticulously analyze evidence, challenge the legality of police stops, and scrutinize law enforcement procedures to identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. They negotiate with prosecutors for reduced charges or penalties or strive for case dismissal if rights were violated.

Criminal defense attorneys ensure fair treatment and advocate for the best outcome, potentially minimizing fines, license suspension, or jail time. For a robust defense strategy and protection of your legal rights, consult our Gillette DUI attorney at Steven Titus & Associates, P.C., today – call (307) 257-7800 for a free consultation.

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