How can law enforcement tell that a driver is intoxicated without pulling them over? Officers can’t just pull you over at random without a reason to check your intoxication levels; they need to have a reason or suspicion that a crime may have been committed. However, officers can usually gain this “reasonable suspicion” by observing driving behaviors. Officers will often spot one of these erratic behaviors and then follow this individual for a little while to see if they continue to show more of them. Once they see enough to create this reasonable suspicion, they’ll make the stop and proceed with further investigations.
Here is a list of just a few of the behaviors that officers will look for to determine if an individual is intoxicated:
- Weaving: Drivers who are intoxicated have a difficult time staying in their line and driving in a straight line. Rather, they will frequently weave from side to side in their lane while making subtle corrections.
- Crossing & straddling lane lines: While some drivers can stay within their lane lines, those who are even more intoxicated may find they’re constantly hugging lane lines or even straddling them while going down the road, an even bigger giveaway that a driver could be intoxicated.
- Swerving: Drivers who are intoxicated may be unable to stay in a lane at all and will regularly swerve from side to side, often without signaling. Officers who spot this will usually make the traffic stop almost immediately.
- Misjudging stopping distances: Drunk drivers have trouble braking evenly. They’ll either brake far too early and have to continually roll forward, or they’ll stop too late and have to slam on their brakes to avoid hitting another car. They may also stop in a jerky manner.
- Widely varying speed: Drunk drivers have a hard time maintaining an even and constant speed. Continually accelerating and decelerating is a pretty big giveaway of intoxication.
- Driving too slow: Drivers who are intoxicated may try to fool everyone by driving slower so they can stay in control and not show other signals, but they’ll often go well under the speed limit, blocking traffic and signaling their own drunkenness.
- Slow to respond to traffic signals: If a driver doesn’t notice a light has turned green and sits there for several seconds after, they’re either intoxicated or on their phone, both punishable offenses.
- Lack of headlights: Drivers who are drunk often forget to turn on their lights, though this is becoming rarer with “auto” headlight settings.
- Following too closely (tailgating): Studies have shown drunk drivers have a tendency to tailgate those in front of them, which is not a good thing when you consider they also tend to brake slower.