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Drunk Driving Clues That Police Notice

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Many police officers go through extensive training in the field of DWI detection and investigation. During their training, officers learn three main phases of DWI detection:

  • Vehicle in Motion
  • Personal Contact, and
  • Pre-Arrest Screening

In this article I will concentrate primarily on the first phase, because (second only to never driving after drinking) not getting pulled over is the best way to avoid getting arrested and prosecuted for driving while intoxicated. Understanding what police are specifically trained to look for in an alcohol-impaired driver can be beneficial to keeping your license and keeping yourself out of jail.

Police officers are trained to stop motorists for a variety of reasons that are not listed below, and it is important to remember that even a stop for something as simple as expired license plates can lead to a DUI arrest. Always remember that the best possible way to avoid a DWI arrest is to never drive when you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.


  • Weaving – this is when a car moves toward one side of the road, and then back towards the other side, which is sort of a zig-zag movement through the lane.
  • Straddling a Lane Line – the car is not fully within its lane of travel
  • Swerving – a sudden and jerky movement of the car.
  • Turning With Wide Radius – happens when a car takes a curve too widely
  • Drifting – a straight line movement at an angle to the road.
  • Almost Striking Object or Vehicle – when a car is nearly involved in a collision of some kind.


  • Problems Coming to a Stop – too far, too short, too jerky
  • Accelerating or Decelerating Rapidly – if tires squeal on a green light or after a stop sign
  • Varying Speed – not keeping a consistent rate of travel
  • Slow Speed – 10 MPH + under the limit


  • Driving in Opposing Lanes – this happens if a car is in the wrong lane, or going the wrong way on a one-way street
  • Slow Response to Traffic Signals – when a driver remains stopped after a red light turns green
  • Failure to Respond to Officer’s Signals – slow response to lights, sirens, or other signals from an officer
  • Stopping in Lane for No Apparent Reason – when a driver stops at a green light, or an intersection that does not have a stop sign
  • Driving Without Headlights – most common in urban areas where street lights are present
  • Failure to Signal – not signaling, turning the opposite direction as the signal, signal on but driver not turning, etc.


  • Following Too Closely – the driver does not have enough separation from other vehicles
  • Improper Lane Change – a driver is changing lanes abruptly and in an unsafe manner
  • Improper Turn – turning at the last second that appears to be dangerous
  • Driving off the Designated Roadway – driving on the edge, shoulder, or off the road completely.
  • Inappropriate / Unusual Behavior – throwing objects, arguing, drinking in the vehicle, urinating roadside, etc.
  • Appearing to be Impaired – eyes fixated, tightly gripping steering wheel, slouching in the seat

All of these clues can be caused by things other than alcohol impairment. Texting, changing the radio, or focusing on anything other than the road might cause a driver to exhibit one or more of these clues while driving. It is always important to keep your focus on the road while operating a motor vehicle; this is especially true if you have had anything to drink prior to getting behind the wheel.

Author Bio


Matt Jett is the CEO and Managing Partner of Jett Legal, a Missouri personal injury law firm. With more than 10 years of
experience in personal injury, he has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including car and truck
accidents, workers’ compensation, wrongful death, and other cases.

Matt received his Juris Doctor from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law and is a member of the Missouri
Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including the Rising Stars distinction by Super Lawyers 2019-2022.

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