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3 ways police detect drunk driving

Between holidays, sports games and other events, there is always an opportunity for drinking. Unfortunately, this can also mean risk of a DUI.

The best way to avoid drunk driving charges is to not get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. If it does happen, these are the ways police catch drunk drivers.

1. Traffic violations

A person who is drunk is likely to make mistakes behind the wheel due to the effect alcohol has on coordination, perception and judgment. Erratic or reckless driving is a huge tip-off. Examples include speeding excessively or weaving in lanes.

However, violations can be minor, too, such as failing to use a turn signal or going under the speed limit by a severe degree. A police officer may pull over a driver for a traffic offense unrelated to drunk driving and discover evidence of intoxication. The driver may have open containers in the car, smell like alcohol or have slurred speech.

2. Field sobriety test

If the officer suspects the driver has been drinking, he or she may ask the motorist to perform a field sobriety test. This involves the following exercises:

  • One leg stand: The drivers raises either foot about six inches and counts out loud until the officer says to stop.
  • Walk and turn: The driver takes nine heel-to-toe steps in a straight line and then turns and repeats.
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus: The police officer asks the driver to look to the side and watches the eyes for involuntary jerky movements.

The first two are to detect impairment in listening skills, balance and coordination. The last is a signifier of alcohol or drug use. The field sobriety test is not mandatory to take.

3. Chemical test

Chemical tests are the most accurate, but not foolproof, methods of determining intoxication. The test can come from blood, breath or urine samples, with blood providing the best measurement. Failure to comply with taking a chemical test results in an automatic loss of license for a year.

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