Signs of Drunk Driving

young woman receiving breathalyzer test for drunk driving

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious and dangerous offense that puts not only the impaired driver at risk but also everyone else on the road. Did you know that certain behaviors and actions can indicate a driver is inebriated? Learning how to spot these signs of drunk driving can help you and your loved ones avoid a potentially life-altering accident. 

Common Signs of Drunk Driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has developed a handbook of over 100 signs of drunk driving that can be used by law enforcement to predict a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher. The list was compiled in 1979 in response to the alarming number of alcohol-related traffic deaths that had occurred since the administration was founded in 1966. 

In 2010, the handbook was edited to include insights provided by law enforcement and account for advances in driving technology. The result was a more succinct list of 24 visual cues, divided into four subcategories:

Category 1: Problems in Maintaining Proper Lane Position

The signs of drunk driving in Category 1 have been shown to accurately predict impaired driving between 50 and 75 percent of the time. In other words, if you see a driver engaged in the following behaviors, they have a more than 50 percent chance of being intoxicated:

  • Weaving within a lane
  • Straddling a lane line
  • Swerving
  • Drifting/weaving across lane lines
  • Near-misses with other vehicles or objects

Category 2: Speed and Braking Problems

Speed and braking problems can also be clear signs of drunk driving. This is because alcohol impairs your reaction time, which means a driver may exhibit unusual or erratic timing for certain maneuvers. Theses include:

  • Braking suddenly
  • Accelerating and decelerating regardless of traffic flow
  • Driving excessively slowly 

According to the NHTSA, these behaviors correctly indicate that a driver has been drinking between 40 and 70 percent of the time.

Category 3: Vigilance Problems

Alcohol also affects your ability to stay alert. A drunk driver may forget routine tasks required for safety, such as signaling or turning on lights at night. Other signs of drunk driving in the Vigilance Problems category are:

  • Driving the wrong direction on a one-way street
  • Stopping in a lane with no reason to do so
  • Using the incorrect signal (i.e. signaling to merge right, then merging left)
  • Slow response to traffic lights or other vehicle signals
  • Slow or non-response to law enforcement signaling

Drivers demonstrating vigilance problems outlined in Category 3 are found to be above the legal alcohol limit between 55 and 65 percent of the time.

Category 4: Judgment Problems

Alcohol lowers inhibition, which increases the chance of risky driving behaviors and poor judgment. Some of the common signs of drunk driving in Category 4 are:

  • Tailgating or other aggressive behavior (shouting, throwing objects, etc.)
  • Illegal or unsafe lane change (no signal, for example)
  • Jerky, sharp, too-wide, or too-fast turns
  • Illegal turns

Drivers exhibiting judgment problems are found to be under the influence between 35 and 90 percent of the time. 

What to Do If You See Signs of Drunk Driving

If you notice any of the above behavior, utilize the following steps to help you take action:

Do Not Confront the Driver

First of all, do not attempt to confront the driver by honking, shouting, flashing lights, or any other means of attracting their attention. This may escalate the situation or cause an already inebriated driver to react in an unsafe manner.

Note the Vehicle Details

If you can safely do so, make a note of the vehicle’s license plate, make, and model. Try to observe the speed you are traveling compared to that of the vehicle you wish to report. Remember the general location you are in and the direction you are headed.

Contact the Authorities

Call the non-emergency police line to report signs of drunk driving. Colorado State Patrol can be reached at *211. Provide as much detail as possible about the vehicle’s location and behavior.

Stay at a Safe Distance

Maintain a safe following distance from the impaired driver while providing information to the authorities. Again, do not try to follow or intervene. If the vehicle is truly erratic and unpredictable, or more than one vehicle is involved, it may be safer to pull over to allow the vehicle to travel a greater distance in front of you. 

When to Seek Legal Assistance for Drunk Driving

Knowing the signs of drunk driving can help you stay safe on the road. But accidents can still happen, no matter how vigilant you may be. If you or someone you know was injured due to a reckless or drunk driver in Colorado, please call Dave Roth with the Roth Group. Dave knows how devastating these cases can be. He will work diligently and compassionately to ensure you receive just compensation for your losses. Call or go online today to schedule your free consultation.