Police officers are trained to be able to spot unique driving patterns that help them to detect drunk drivers on the road. These officers do not base their decisions to pull over drivers based on hunches or gut feelings, they rely heavily on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studies that show certain patterns are consistent with driving a vehicle under the influence.
An officer will perform a DUI stop if a driver exhibits one or more of the following driving patterns;
Wide Radius Turning – Unable to maintain the correct speed and turn the wheel at the same time, this lack of coordination tells officers the driver may be inebriated. Usually the officer will follow the vehicle to see if it was an isolated mistake or if other DUI driving patterns follow.
Weaving on the Road – When the officer sees a vehicle weaving back and forth, they will follow at a safe distance before determining if the driver needs to pull over. The weaving could simply be a distracted driver at first, so after following for a distance, the officer will make the determination if the weaving persists.
Straddling Center Lane Marker – One of the things that a drunk driver will do is straddle the center lane in an effort to try and make it to their destination. Unable to see clearly to the shoulder line, using the center line as a guide helps the drunk driver to stay in their lane. The officer can see the vehicle is to close to oncoming traffic, something the driver does not realize because they are too focused on the lane marker.
Almost Striking a Vehicle or Object – When an officer observes that a driver almost strikes another vehicle or a stationary object, they will begin pursuing the driver. Although this can certainly be a case of a driver losing focus for an instant, it is a good indicator that a driver could be impaired and a field test could reveal the driver is in fact under the influence.
Driving Under the Speed Limit – In an effort to avoid being detected by the police, the drunk driver will drive carefully. In fact, they drive so careful that they tend to go several miles under the speed limit in an effort to get to where they are going safely. Usually if an officer sees a vehicle traveling for some distance driving 10 mph under the limit, they will try to get the driver to pull off to the side of the road.
Swerving In and Out – The driver who is under the influence has trouble keeping the steering wheel straight, so the car tends to swerve in and out on the road.
Drifting – Drifting occurs when the drunk driver begin to fall asleep and the car slowly veers off to the side until they snap awake and pull the vehicle back on the road. In many DUI cases, according to Aaron Jacobs, a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer – the car will drift very close to going off the road before the driver corrects, and this occurs many times until the officer pulls the car over.
Braking Erratically – The drunk driver is so focused on keeping the car in between the lane markers that they often lose the ability to brake correctly. Since all their focus is on the steering wheel, it becomes a serious challenge to gently depress the brake pedal when trying to slow down the vehicle. The result, the car appears to braking erratically and alerts the officer this may need further investigation.
Driving Without Headlight On – The drunk driver is unable to go through the normal checklist before starting the car, and more alarmingly, they will then drive with the headlights off and don’t realize it is an issue. This is a deadly situation because other drivers can not see a vehicle heading towards them and have no time to react. In this instance, and officer will quickly try to get the driver to bring the vehicle to a stop to investigate.
Slower Response to Traffic Signals – The drunk driver sees everything in slow motion. It doesn’t matter if it is a traffic signal or a stop sign, the drunk driver tends to have a slower response to these warning signs. With traffic lights, many drunk drivers will blow right through red lights because they simply didn’t see or have the reaction time to reach the brake pedal in time.
It is important to understand that although the police officers use these driving patterns as a reason to stop potential drunk motorists, further investigation is needed by the officer. These driving patterns give the officers reasonable cause to stop the vehicle and investigate further.
The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Learn more about DUI by reading this wikipedia page.