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Recognizing Signs of Impaired Driving: What to Look For

Law enforcement officers are trained to observe a wide range of behaviors and indicators when identifying suspected impaired driving. While some signs of DUI (Driving Under the Influence) are pretty evident, others may be less apparent. Understanding these common indicators can help both drivers on the road and individuals who may find themselves facing DUI charges grasp what law enforcement officers are looking for.

Common Indicators of Impaired Driving:

  • 1. Turning Abnormalities: Making overly broad turns or executing illegal turns can draw police attention.
  • 2. Lane Deviation: The inability to maintain a consistent lane position or drive over lane dividers may suggest impaired motor skills.
  • 3. “Appearing to be Drunk”: Although somewhat subjective, certain behaviors or physical traits may indicate intoxication.
  • 4. Night Driving Without Headlights: Failing to use headlights when required, particularly at night, can lead to law enforcement intervention.
  • 5. Inconsistent Acceleration: Frequent and abrupt changes in acceleration may indicate a lack of control over the vehicle.
  • 6. Incorrect Signaling: Using turn signals that do not match the actual direction of travel can raise suspicion.
  • 7. Sudden Braking or Stopping: Unpredictable braking or abrupt stops can be considered dangerous and may lead to a traffic stop.
  • 8. Drifting: Erratic vehicle movement, unrelated to skilled drifting seen in motorsports, can indicate impaired driving.
  • 9. Driving Well Below the Speed Limit: Interestingly, while speeding is not directly associated with impairment, law enforcement officers may interpret it as risky behavior often linked to impairment.

Physical Signs of Impairment:

Following a traffic stop, law enforcement officers will also assess physical signs of impairment, including:

  • 1. Physical Appearance: This may involve identifying signs such as red or flushed skin, bloodshot eyes, and disheveled clothing that may suggest impairment.
  • 2. Odor of Alcohol: Detecting the scent of alcohol on your breath or within the vehicle can be a sign of alcohol consumption.
  • 3. Speech: Slurred speech or difficulty articulating words can indicate impairment.
  • 4. Document Retrieval Difficulty: Proving your driver’s license and insurance documents may raise suspicions.
  • 5. Attitude: An inappropriate or aggressive attitude or excessive joviality could be perceived as a sign of impairment.
  • 6. Inability to Divide Attention: Law enforcement officers may engage you in conversation. At the same time, you retrieve documents to assess your ability to multitask effectively, potentially revealing signs of impairment.

It is important to note that while these signs may raise suspicion, they do not conclusively prove impairment, as there could be alternative explanations for these behaviors. Factors like fatigue or emotional distress can also contribute to these signs.

If you ever find yourself facing DUI charges in Denver, seeking legal counsel from an experienced Denver DUI attorney is crucial. They can help you navigate the legal process, dispute police evidence, and work toward securing the best possible outcome for your case.


In conclusion, being aware of the indicators of impaired driving can benefit both drivers on the road and those facing DUI charges. Seeking legal representation from professionals like Denver DUI attorneys can make a significant difference in protecting your rights and achieving a favorable resolution to your legal situation.

Do you have further questions or concerns? Call us or contact the attorneys at Thomas & Ahnell, LLC, and we will be happy to help.

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