New Hampshire DWI Police Cues

New Hampshire DWI Visual Cues

In order to be arrested for DWI in New Hampshire law enforcement officers must be given a reason to suspect that a driver is impaired. Police officers are trained to spot signs of impairment in both a driver's physical appearance and in the way they operate their vehicle. According to the National Highway traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are four categories that officers should look for in drivers to judge whether they are possibly impact.

The NHTSA has developed a number of cues that law-enforcement can use to judge drivers. Patrol officers only have about a 3% chance of making a DWI arrest by simply stopping a vehicle. The NHTSA did a study of traffic patterns and DWI driving behaviors and determined what factors police should look for in drivers in order to maximize the number of the DWI drivers they are able to stop. Because police need probable cause to stop a vehicle, these cues not only give police a reason to stop a potential driver but also a reason to believe that the driver is impaired. For example, a law enforcement agent that sees a vehicle leave a bar at night cannot simply stop them for suspicion of DWI. They can, however, follow the vehicle for a short period of time to see if the driver demonstrates any of the following cues. These categories include:

  • Inability to Maintain Their Lane – A driver who is impaired is believed to have trouble driving in a straight line. Therefore, the driver may have a hard time staying in their lane. The most common sign of this is weaving. The NHTSA estimates that a driver who is weaving has a 50% chance of being DWI. Other signs of intoxication include:      
    • Weaving across lane lines
    • Straddling a lane line
    • Swerving
    • Making turns that are too wide
    • Drifting across the lane and into the shoulder
    • Almost striking a vehicle or other object
  • Speeding or Breaking Problems – NHTSA research has shown that impaired drivers have trouble braking at proper intervals. Police who witness a vehicle that does not make a smooth stop or that stops too close to a stop line are trained that this may be a sign of impairment. Other signs they look for are as follows:      
    • Stopping too far,  too short or too jerky
    • Accelerating or decelerating for no obvious reason
    • Varying vehicle's rate of speed
    • Driving 10 or more miles per hour under the speed limit
  • Vigilance Problems – Impaired drivers are believed to have trouble paying attention to the road. That is why any minor traffic mistake can be a sign to police that a driver is DWI. The NHTSA tells law enforcement that drivers who display the following cues are 55% to 65% likely to be DWI.        
    • Driving in the wrong lane or in the wrong direction on a one-way street
    • Responding slowly to traffic signals
    • Slow or no response to officers signals
    • Stopping for no obvious reason
    • Driving without headlights
  • Judgment Problems – The NHTSA trains law enforcement to suspect DWI if they notice a driver changing lanes frequently or exhibiting any “unusual behavior”.  Alcohol impairs a person's judgment abilities so police who see any f the following judgment cues should suspect DWI:
    • Unusual behavior
    • Throwing items out of the car window
    • Following too closely
    • Improper lane change Improper turn or illegal turn
    • Driving off of the road

According to the and NHSTA's information, a driver who exhibits any of these signs has at least a 35% chance of being under the influence. If the driver exhibit 2 of these cues there is a 50% chance that they are under the influence. If the driver exhibits weaving plus any other cue, the NHTSA believes that there is a 65% chance that they are under the influence.

Looking at these cues, it may be surprising how many every day errors can appear to police as a sign of impairment. For example, a driver who is lost and following directions may hit their brakes too quickly when they get to their turn. If they make a mistake the first time, they may drive a little slower down the road and stop suddenly again when they find their turn. Most of these cues are innocent mistakes that would not harm the driver or anyone else on the road. To police, however, they are of red flag.

New Hampshire Post Stop DWI Cues

In addition to driving sues, police are also trained to spot evidence of DWI when they stop a vehicle. If a police officer stops a driver for suspicious driving, they will look for cues from the driver that they are physically impaired. According to the NHTSA demonstrating post stop cues shows an 85% chance of DWI; these cues include:

  • Difficulty exiting the vehicle
  • Fumbling while handing over driver's license or registration
  • Repeating officer's questions or comments
  • Having balance problems or being unsteady on their feet
  • Slurring their speech
  • Changing their answers to questions or giving accurate information
  • The odor of alcohol coming from the driver

Call A New Hampshire DWI Attorney Now

This system makes sense on paper because it gives officers specific habits to look for when searching for DWI drivers. Unfortunately, most of these cues were researched more than 40 years ago. Since then drivers have a number of other reasons to distract them such as cell phone and radios and iPods. While none of these are excuses for poor driving, driver should be aware that sending a text message could cause their car tow weave and could also be signaling police that they under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In fact, the NHTSA states that any unusual behavior such as throwing items from a car window can be a sign of DWI.

It is important for all drivers to understand what police look for when searching for DWI drivers. It is also important that they know how to defend themselves. If you have been stopped by police and accused of driving under the influence, contact our office to find out more about your defense options.