How Do Police Spot Drunk Drivers? (Here’s How Law Enforcement Does It)

Ever wonder how police spot drunk drivers? It’s not just seeing cars weaving on the road. They learn specific tell-tale signs of impaired or drunken driving.

I. How Police Spot Drunk Drivers

Here are some of the things that law enforcement officers look for.

  • police spot drunkAccelerating or slowing down quickly.
  • Almost hitting an object or other vehicle.
  • Drifting (moving in a straight-line at a slight angle to the roadway).
  • Driving in the center or on the wrong side of the road .
  • Erratic braking.
  • Failing to turn on headlights at night.
  • Going much too slowly.
  • Looking drunk (face close to windshield, drinking in the vehicle, etc.).
  • Making a turn that’s too wide.
  • Signaling that is inconsistent with driving actions.
  • Slowly reacting to traffic signals.
  • Stopping inappropriately.
  • Swerving or abruptly turning.
  • Turning suddenly or illegally.
  • Weaving or zigzagging across the road.

II. You Can Help Police

You can help police catch drunk drivers and make the roads safer for everyone. Officers can’t be everywhere at once. But you can help them with your eyes and proper actions.

Call 911 if you see a driver who appears to be driving while intoxicated. (The driver may suffer impairment by drugs or a medical problem. By calling 911, you might even save the driver’s life.)

When you call 911, give the location and the direction the vehicle in question is going. Also describe the vehicle as well as you can. For example, the make, model, color, license plate number, etc. The more information you can provide, the better.

III. Things Not to Do

Never, ever:

  • Try to stop or interfere with the vehicle.
  • Break any laws to keep the vehicle in view.
  • Follow the vehicle too closely (it may suddenly stop).
  • Try to detain the driver if the vehicle stops.

Remember, you can greatly help police stop drunk drivers. That makes the roads safer for everyone.

IV. Resources

Aguirre, C. Driving While Impaired Enforcement and Detection. Salemburg, NC: NC Justice Acad, 2013.

Dempsey, J. and Forst, L. An Introduction to Policing. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Cengage, 2012.

D.U.I. Enforcement Manual for the State of Colorado. Denver: CO Off Trans Safety, 2005.

Kwasnoski, J., et al. Officer’s DUI Handbook. Charlottesville, VA: LexisNexis, 2013.