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Drunk driving: what are the visible signs of intoxication?

While automobile collisions are an unfortunate event to be involved in, drivers in Iowa may be aware that a common cause of car crashes is the negligence of one or more drivers. This could amount to the driver being distracted, fatigued, reckless or even intoxicated. If impaired driving is to blame, it is important to understand the elements of a drunk driving accident, and how an injured victim could hold the drunk driver responsible for damages caused by the incident.

Victim, witness and authority accounts of the accident are often considered and relied on in the investigation of a drunk driving accident. This often means spotting and understanding the visible signs of intoxication. For law enforcement officers and courts, this means assessing the driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of the incident.

While an intoxicated driver or observer of a drunk driver will not be able to determine an individual's BAC just by looking at the individual, there are visual signs of intoxication that should be noted. These can be broken down into four stages, and could be observed by anyone encountering the intoxicated individual.

The first stage of intoxication is loss of inhibitions. This often means the individual is overly friendly, speaks loudly and may cause public annoyances such as bothering others or being disruptive. The next stage of intoxication is impaired judgment. The individual might be argumentative, careless or make irrational statements.

The third stage is loss of reactions. Observers often note glassy, dilated or bloodshot eyes, loss of train of thought and slurred speech. The last stage is loss of coordination. This could include the inability to sit up straight, staggering, bumping into things, unbalanced walking and stumbling or falling.

While an individual at any stage of intoxication could be detrimental if they get behind the wheel, noting these stages could help an individual or an observer of the individual from getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. Understanding the warning signs of intoxication could help prevent drunk driving accidents.

Source:, "Impaired Driving," accessed Aug. 10, 2015

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