How Law Enforcement Detects Intoxicated Motorists

The NHTSA conducted a study which led to extensive research that helped police officers throughout the country detect drunk drivers on the road. Law enforcement looks for signs of intoxication while driving with other motorists, during a traffic stop, or even after a car accident.

Here are the most common visual cues the police look for before pulling over and arresting intoxicated drivers:

  • Issues maintaining a consistent and steady lane position – If a driver has trouble staying within a driving lane or moving between lanes, an officer will most likely pull the person over. Common examples of improper lane position include swerving, weaving through multiple lanes, drifting toward one side of the road, straddling the center line or side of the road, or making turns that are extremely wide.
  • Awareness problems – This often involves failure to pay attention to the current road conditions such as traffic signals and signs, the flow of traffic, or even the weather. Drivers who display this type of behavior typically have a delayed response to traffic signals, use the wrong turn signal, operate the vehicle without turning on the headlights, or drive the wrong way.
  • Braking and speed problems – Intoxicated motorists have a hard time maintaining the appropriate speed. Common stopping issues include making jerky stops, braking before or beyond an intersection, stopping at odd angles, or stopping far away from a curb. Common acceleration problems include driving at least ten miles over the speed limit or driving at inconsistent speeds.
  • Judgment issues – When you are behind the wheel, you are responsible for correctly making a constant set of judgment to avoid endangering yourself and others. Drunk drivers have a difficult time making the right judgments. Common signs of judgment problems include making illegal turns or unsafe lane changes, driving off-road, or tailgating.

These signs establish reasonable suspicion for a police officer to make a traffic stop. In order to establish probable cause for a DWI arrest, the officer must gather evidence which concludes the driver was under the influence.

Common indicators of drunk driving after a traffic stop include:

  • The smell of alcohol from the driver or inside the vehicle
  • An open container of alcohol
  • Slurred speech
  • Delayed movement and reactions
  • Poor motor skills

While these signs may indicate drunk driving, there are also many reasonable explanations for such behavior which can be better explained by an experienced DWI attorney. If you have been arrested for drunk driving in Texas, contact our Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer at The Clark Law Firm today for more information.


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