How To Avoid Being Stopped By Police And Avoid A DUI — Be A Better Driver

How To Avoid Being Stopped By Police And Avoid A DUI — Be A Better Driver

Very few DUI arrests start as a suspicion for DUI, rather, they typically start by seeing a traffic infraction of some sort. Thus the basic advice here is this: being a better driver will reduce your chances of being arrested for DUI.


If you have been reading these blog posts in order, you will recall that I have made several references to the fact that police in WA need a "lawful" reason to stop/seize a driver. Very few DUI arrests start as a suspicion for DUI, rather, they typically start by seeing a traffic infraction of some sort. Thus the basic advice here is this: being a better driver will reduce your chances of being arrested for DUI. This of course assumes that a person has consumed alcohol and then driven, and as my future blog will explain and show, police, in my opinion, arrest for DUI based on odor alone. I will explain that one in the next blog as I said. But for now, let's focus on how to avoid "detection" as the police training puts it. So return to our basic premise, the police need a legal reason to stop you. That a driver's constitutional right—to be free of police seizures without the authority of law.

Any time a police officer see’s a driving "infraction," or believes he sees an infraction that provides the authority of law to seize a driver. Also, if you think about it, you will also recognize that some of the more popular bad driving habits, are only enforced between certain hours of the 24 hr. day. I will highlight them shortly.

Obvious Ways to Avoid a Stop

Speed Limit

Know the speed limit where you are, and don’t speed. If you don’t see a speed limit sign, you should ember the limits set by statute based on the Driving guide we all forget. City Streets max 25 unless otherwise posted. County Roads? Anyone know this? Interstate? Max 60 unless otherwise posted. If you are not speeding, you are not drawing attention to yourself.

Signals

Use your signals, use them properly. The signal statue requires activation of a signal and continued use for 100 feet prior to lane movement OR turn. AT 60 mph on the freeway, that’s not a long time, about 1.5 seconds given how many feet per second a vehicle is covering at 60mph. Lesser speed require a longer period, and as you approach an intersection or driveway, 100 feet is pretty easy to estimate, but the reality is, use of a signal even if less than 100 feet is not going to get you stopped, so use the signal. Even if you are in a designated lane for a turn, use the signal. A recent case held that even in a dedicated turn lane, a signal is still required as written in the rules of the road.

Turn Properly

On the heels of the above, make sure after you use your signal you turn properly. Other than speed this is the most frequent reason I see people stopped, but I never see this violation enforced during the day. The failure to turn properly is a pet peeve of mine because if the turn were just executed properly a person would not likely be sitting in my office. It's simply "lazy" driving, but it's also some of the most likely kind of driving that accidents are involved with.  Here are examples of improper turns — they are only an issues where two roads intersect and the two roads have two lanes. Here is an overhead of wrong way vs proper way.

Aerial view of an intersection showing the path a car should take into the nearest lane on a right hand turn
Aerial view of an intersection showing the incorrect way of a right-hand turn: turning into the far lane

The blue car making the right-hand turn has an obligation to turn into the lane "closest" to the curb. When there are no other cars on the road one might ask "why bother?" The answer is because it’s a rule of the road and it is designed to avoid accidents and yet maintain the flow of traffic. Traffic from the opposite side of the road has a duty to turn into its closest lane next to the centerline, like this:

Aerial view of an intersection with two cars turning in the same direction—one making a right hand turn and one a left hand turn

If each driver turns into "their proper lane" each driver can move through the intersection safely without colliding. Not executing a turn properly in terms of designated lane of travel is a traffic infraction even if no one is around. The other improper turn is "cutting" the corner. The proper method of turning at an intersection, in this example turning Left From Eliza to Westbound Bakerview, is to move out into the intersection and then at the midpoint make the turn. Many people will move diagonally from their stop line rather than out into the road. When they do so, frequently they will "cut the corner" and drive into and over the stop line. Sometimes striking the vehicle lawfully sitting at the stop line, but more often, a police officer see the corner being "cut." Keep in mind, just because no vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction, or not sitting at a stop line, does not mean a traffic infraction is not committed, because the rules state proper methods and failure to follow these is the infraction.

More Reasons You Might Be Pulled Over

Free Right Turns

As a driver approaches a red stop light it's known that a driver has a "free right turn" unless otherwise posted. While this is true, a driver still must come to a stop before making the turn. Failure to do so is a failure to obey the red stop light.

Stop at the Designated Stop Bar/White Painted Block

As mentioned above, a driver must still come to a complete stop even though it's easy to slow down, have a clear view, see no traffic and continue on around the corner. The law requires a stop AT THE STOP BAR/LINE when the signal is Red or when stopping at a Stop Sign. If a police officer is siting opposite side of the intersection and sees a driver not stop at the stop line/bar—meaning the front bumper, not the front tires, then they have witnessed a traffic in fraction that entitles them to seize a vehicle. However, if this is the first incident the officer sees, it is more likely the officer will follow for some distance and be on the watch more infractions, thus having multiple reasons to make a stop.

Valid Tabs? Equipment on the vehicle in good working order?

If a police officer decides to follow for a while and watch someone's driving, they often look for obvious things, and a license plate is always a big issue. No front plate? That is an infraction and valid basis to stop UNLESS the car is registered in a state that does not issue two plates, like Georgia and Florida. The license plate statute requires plates to be mounted not only front and back, but within a very specific manner — horizontal, above the ground a certain height, and below a certain height. A vehicle with a plate wedged in the back window, the front window, or even on a custom hanger that may be too low to the ground, or if the plate is properly located but the vehicle is lowered such that the plate is no longer confirming—valid basis to stop.

If the vehicle registration/tab sticker is expired, valid basis to stop. 

Temporary permit in the window?

As long as the window tint, if any, is not too dark, then no basis to stop, but if the tint is too dark to read the permit, the stop becomes valid because of suspicion of unlawful tint, regardless of the validity of the permit.

Obscured Plate

This is a chippy one, because I have seen vehicle stops when the trooper said the "hitch ball on the bumper" obscured his vision of the plate, but it was an incorrect reading of the statue so the prosecutor was forced to dismiss the DUI charge, but it was a close one. There are bike racks, snowboard/ski racks, and other kinds of hitch mounting hardware that when full or even empty, obscure the plate. On a slow night, looking for a DUI arrest, a police officer will use this a basis to stop.

No License Plate Light

Staying with the license plate, a favorite justification I saw for a while and still do, is the police officer saying the license plate illuminating light was inoperable, thus not showing the plate and this is an infraction and basis to stop, if true. The statue requires a light, configured in such a way that it serves to illuminate the plate making it readable within 50 feet. Some cars have a center light, others have a light on either side of the plate. I think you can see where is infraction could come from, but when I had a few cases dismissed because the officer simply pulled behind and was unable to actually tell, because of the patrol car headlights, word got around and the testimony became, "as I followed the vehicle it appeared that the rear plate light was not working and so I pulled behind the car, and briefly turned off my head lights." If there was no "over washing" of the weaker plate light by the following patrol car, and the plate was not visible, there was cause to stop.

White Light to the rear

This flows well from the above because the license plate light is required to be white light, but it's a dim light. The white light to the rear seizure is typically predicated upon a broken brake/marker light. It's a traffic infraction to show white light to the rear that is more powerful than a plate light. A broken brake lens usually shows a little white light to the rear, depending on the size of the break/crack/hole, but as soon as the brake is applied the light grows more intense and typically over washes the red light. Same issue with a broken signal lens. The point here is make sure the vehicle is in good repair and condition.  Don’t let these kinds of draw attention to your vehicle and don't let your driving do the same.

There are more examples to come in the next blog post, and if you want to review and brush up on the vehicle driving code, here are the official Title 46.61 Rules of the Road.

Happy reading! Once you educate yourself keep these rules in mind as you watch other drives, and thus you can be more mindful.