Every driver should know that driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs is something to avoid. Not only could these types of impaired driving lead to legal consequences, they can also contribute to a serious accident. However, just because a driver appears impaired does not mean he or she is.
There are numerous lawful conditions that can mimic the symptoms of impairment, which include eye and vision issues, balance problems, confusion and unsafe driving behaviours.
When police look for signs of impairment, the eyes can be the first place they look. If eyes appear red or glassy, officers may conclude a person could be under the influence of illicit drugs or alcohol. They might reach the same conclusion if they see problems with a person’s pupil sizes or the ability to visually track objects.
However, these visual symptoms are not necessarily proof of impairment. They could be caused by:
- A medical emergency
- Looking into very bright light
- Obstructions like contacts or glasses
A person who loses his or her balance during a roadside interaction with police may seem impaired. However, the following conditions could also lead to balance problems:
- Uncomfortable footwear
- Uneven road surfaces
- Existing injury
- Certain medical conditions
- Having poor balance to begin with
Confusion, divided attention issues
In the context of a roadside stop and interaction with police, even a sober, law-abiding person can feel scared, nervous and confused. Add to this the unexpected questions by police and uncertainty about your rights, and a person can easily get confused. Further, the environment itself can rife with distractions, including:
- Flashing police lights
- Passing motorists
- A seemingly lengthy stop
- Multiple police officers
- Concerns about how the stop will affect the rest of a person’s day
There are countless explanations for swerving, running through traffic lights or driving too slowly or too fast that have nothing to do with impairment (though they could still warrant a ticket). Instead of being impaired, a driver could be:
- Lost or confused
- In a hurry
- Responding to changing road conditions
These situations and conditions do not make it illegal for a person to drive. However, because they can mimic the signs of impairment, police may jump to a different conclusion.
Because of this, it is crucial to scrutinize traffic stops that lead to drug and alcohol testing and impaired driving charges. Doing so can make the difference between an inconvenience and a criminal conviction.