Officers undergo training to recognize signs of impaired driving, commonly associated with alcohol or drug use. However, it is important to acknowledge that erratic driving is not always the result of intoxication.
There are instances where pre-existing medical conditions can lead to behavior that enforcement mistakenly attributes to drunk driving.
Diabetes can affect one’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. It is very common, with about 1 in 10 people in the United States having diabetes. About 1 in 5 with the condition are unaware they have it.
Low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) can lead to confusion, dizziness and even loss of consciousness, all of which are relatively easy to mistake for signs of impairment.
Individuals with epilepsy may experience seizures, which can suddenly incapacitate them while driving. Uncontrolled seizures may result in erratic vehicle movements that resemble the behavior of an intoxicated driver.
Sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, sleep apnea or insomnia can lead to fatigue, drowsiness and even microsleep episodes while driving. These conditions can impair a driver’s alertness and reaction time.
Conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis can cause tremors, muscle weakness or spasms, making it challenging for individuals to maintain proper control of their vehicle.
Mental health disorders
Individuals with certain mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia may experience episodes of disorientation or impaired judgment, which can lead to erratic driving behavior.
Severe migraines can result in intense headaches, visual disturbances and confusion. A driver experiencing a migraine attack may exhibit erratic driving patterns that law enforcement could mistake for drunk driving.
Medication side effects
Certain prescription medications, when not managed correctly, can lead to side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness or impaired coordination, all of which can affect a person’s driving abilities.
It is necessary for both law enforcement and medical professionals to understand that erratic driving behavior may be indicative of an underlying medical condition rather than alcohol or drug impairment.