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What Signs of Intoxication Do Police Look For During DUI Stops?

Posted by Brett Willis | Nov 02, 2023 | 0 Comments

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense that can result in grave consequences for both the driver and innocent bystanders. To mitigate the risks posed by impaired drivers, law enforcement officers are trained to detect signs of intoxication during traffic stops. This training comes primarily from the National Highway and Transportation Safety Authority (NHTSA) - often referred to colloquially as Nitsa.

In this post, we'll delve into the myriad of indicators that officers look for during these stops, providing a comprehensive overview for drivers to be informed and aware.

Understanding the Basis of the NHTSA Training

Law enforcement agencies across the United States have adopted training methodologies proposed by the NHTSA. This training is designed to equip officers with the knowledge and skills required to accurately identify drivers who may be impaired due to alcohol or drugs.

Pre-Stop Indicators

Before a stop is even initiated, officers are on the lookout for specific driving patterns that might indicate impairment. Some of these driving behaviors include:

  • Failure to maintain a lane
  • Weaving within a lane or swerving
  • Crossing the fog line or driving on the shoulder
  • Erratic speeding or driving too slow for conditions
  • Making overly wide turns 

While these behaviors don't necessarily guarantee the driver is impaired, they do raise red flags that could lead to a traffic stop.

Post-Stop Indicators: What Police Observe After the Stop

Once a vehicle has been pulled over, officers look for a host of signs to gauge the sobriety of a driver. It's worth noting that while the NHTSA highlights 24 different indicators of impairment, we'll be discussing some of the most commonly observed ones here.

Physical and Verbal Symptoms

Immediately upon making contact with a driver, officers will assess a driver's physical appearance and verbal responses. Some key signs include:

  • Slurred Speech: One of the most telling signs of intoxication.
  • Glassy or Bloodshot Eyes: Indicative of recent alcohol or drug use.
  • Odor of Alcohol: While the smell alone doesn't confirm intoxication, it can be a significant factor, especially if combined with other indicators.

Motor Skills and Behavior

A driver's coordination and behavior can be strong indicators of their level of impairment. Some signs include:

  • Fumbling with Documents: If a driver struggles to find their license or registration, it can be seen as a lack of motor coordination.
  • Unsteady Gait: Stumbling or struggling to maintain balance when exiting the vehicle can be a red flag.
  • Urinating on Oneself: Though rare, this extreme sign is a clear indicator of severe intoxication.

The Importance of Being Informed

Awareness is a vital component of road safety. Knowing what signs of intoxication police look for during DUI stops can not only help drivers understand what behaviors to avoid when behind the wheel but also shed light on the rigorous training that officers undergo to keep roads safe.

It's essential for every driver to remember that the best way to avoid DUI stops and potential charges is to never drink and drive. Always plan ahead, use a designated driver, or utilize transportation alternatives if you plan on consuming alcohol.

For more information on DUI stops, laws, and legal assistance, don't hesitate to contact Brett Willis Law today. Our team is here to assist and educate.

About the Author

Brett Willis

When the government has charged you with a crime, Brett Willis is the man to see. Brett has been winning the most difficult and serious cases since 2005.


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