How police spot a drink driver - even before they've stopped your car

Police officers have issued a warning to drink and drug drivers who think they can get away with it: Don't bother.

Despite tip-offs from the public via Crimestoppers, officers still use their skill, intuition and experience to spot drink drivers.

Traffic officer PC Chris Powling said: ‘There’s no point thinking you can get away with drink driving. There might be certain things we look for, but if you think you can cover up drink or drug driving – you can’t.

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‘Impaired drivers always give themselves away one way or another, and we’re experienced enough to spot the signs. Our message is simple: Don’t drink or take drugs, and drive.’

Here are some tell-tale signs to help sober motorists spot drink and drug drivers – and if you do, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


Driving Manner

How motorists who’ve had a drink or taken drugs drive their cars is very different to those who are sober.

Picture: James BaggottPicture: James Baggott
Picture: James Baggott

Not keeping the car in a straight line, weaving in between the white lines and overstepping give way marks and stop signs are all tell tales of an inebriated driver.


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Traffic cops can only breathalyse drivers who have committed a ‘moving road traffic violation’. That could be something as simple as having a brake light out, or speeding.

Once pulled over, officers are perfectly within their rights to breathalyse the driver.

Picture: James BaggottPicture: James Baggott
Picture: James Baggott

Answer the question

Have you had anything to drink in the last 24 hours?

It’s a simple question and one that most people, especially at the weekend, will find hard to answer no to.

A positive answer means the officer can pull out the breath test machine and ask the driver to provide a reading.


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We’ve already mentioned it, but intoxicated drivers often think they’re better than they are.

Their heightened confidence levels from the alcohol or drugs mean they’re far more likely to break the limit.

At the other end of the scale, officers are looking for those who are driving too slowly – another sign a driver is trying to avoid detection.

Car condition

If you’re happy to wantonly break the law by drink driving, chances are you don’t really care about the state your car is in.

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Traffic cops say most offenders have something wrong with their car, such as bald tyres, lights out, or damaged panels – and they look out for these while on patrol.

Misty windows

One giveaway on cold nights is ‘letterbox windows’.

This is where a driver has simply wiped a small area of a misted-up window and driven off.

Drink-drivers are often impatient, or simply don’t notice their windows are foggy before driving off.

No lights

Many people forget to put their lights on, but it can also be a sign someone has had a drink.

After a skin full, drivers often are not thinking straight and they’ll see the daytime running lights illuminating the road ahead and think their headlights are on.