This post is the third in a series aimed at assisting the responsible drinking driver who wants to have a successful night out with family and friends. Go to andrewcoiner.com if you want to read the first two installments in this series. This series is not aimed to assist the impaired driver avoid arrest and conviction. It is not a good idea to drink and drive. Law enforcement is taught to err on the side of safety. The mere smell of an alcoholic beverage combined with another clue of impairment may be enough to arrest you.
However, consuming an alcoholic beverage and driving is not illegal. It never has been and never will be. Kentucky law indicates drivers tested with a blood-alcohol content of .05 or less are presumed NOT to be under the influence of alcohol.
In the first post, I advised you to look closely at your motor vehicle. In the second post, I urged you to consider your alcohol consumption and your consumption of prescription medication. I want you to closely examine your driving habits in this installment.
Law enforcement officers are taught to look for visual clues for DUI when observing drivers on the road. Officers are taught to look for problems maintaining proper lane position. Weaving, weaving across lane lines, straddling a lane line, swerving, turning with a wide radius, drifting or almost striking an object or another vehicle are examples of a potential inability to maintain proper lane position.
Speed and braking problems are another set of visual clues that could lead a law enforcement officer to stop a suspected impaired driver. Stopping problems, such as stopping too far from a curb or at an improper angle; stopping to short or beyond the limit line at an intersection; and stopping abruptly or with a jerking motion are examples of stopping problems. Officers also look for accelerating or decelerating rapidly, varying your speed and driving more than 10 miles per hour UNDER the speed limit as clues to an impaired driver.
Vigilance problems could also get you stopped for suspicion of impaired driving. Officers look for drivers driving in opposing lanes or the wrong way on a one-way street; drivers slow to respond to traffic signals; drivers who are slow to respond to an officer's lights, siren or hand signals; drivers stopping for no apparent reason; driving without headlights and failing to signal or signaling inconsistently with action (such as signaling a left turn then turning right).
Judgment problems can also lead to a traffic stop. Officers look for clues such as following too closely; an improper or unsafe lane change; an illegal or improper turn; driving on something other than the designated roadway, such as the shoulder of the road or driving straight in a turn lane; stopping inappropriately, such as at a green light or short of an intersection; unusual behavior, such as littering, drinking adult beverages in the vehicle or other disorderly actions taken inside the vehicle; and appearing to be impaired, such as tightly gripping the steering wheel, face close to the windshield, and gesturing erratically.
To help you avoid unwanted interaction with law enforcement when you are not impaired, in the words of the great Allen Iverson, “We're talking about practice man.” I recommend practicing safe driving habits every time you are behind the wheel. Practice using your turn signal at all appropriate times, even when turning into your own driveway. Be always vigilant about your lane position Stop at the limit lines at intersections and if you need to edge closer to properly observe traffic, do it slowly. In short, don't take your driving skills for granted and assume just because you've been driving for several years you don't have to pay attention to detail while you are doing it. It could be the difference between a safe and sober night out and an evening in jail.
In the next blog post, I'll discuss what to do if you have taken every precaution to drive responsibly but still interact with law enforcement.