Black and white fever

A little – discussed phenomenon that is very relevant to those charged with driving under the influence is what is sometimes called “black and white fever” – black and white meaning the traditional colors of a marked police car. When we are driving down the road and a police officer gets behind us and begins to follow us, most people get nervous whether they are doing something wrong or not, and it affects how we drive. Larry Taylor explains the phenomenon pretty well, in the context of a discussion of the often stated excuse for pulling someone over, “weaving within the lane” :

That phenomenon is simply the normal reaction of most drivers to being followed by a marked police car (painted black and white in many jurisdictions). As soon as the motorist becomes aware that a police car is following him, he becomes understandably apprehensive and focuses his attention increasingly on the rear view mirror. As the officer continues to follow, the driver becomes tense, worried, and his concentration on driving is broken: He keeps his eyes more on the mirror and less on the road ahead. Each time the driver brings his eyes back to the road, he finds that he has drifted and must correct the course of the car back to the center of the lane.
The result: weaving and, possibly, erratic movements such as sudden increases or decreases in speed (tension can cause the foot to depress the accelerator). And, of course, these are the most commonly encountered symptoms of a drunk driver on the highway.
In other words, it is the very presence of the officer which tends to create the probable cause for suspecting a DUI. And after the officer pulls the driver over, he gets out and approaches the car with the very human preconception that the driver is probably intoxicated. And, as we know from psychological studies, we all tend to see what we expect to see: normally veined eyes appear “bloodshot”, normal but nervous speech sounds “slurred”, normal pink complexion appears “flushed”, etc.

In other “driving” under the influence news, two men were arrested in Austin, Texas, for “DUI” on a horse and a mule, and five bicyclists in L.A. were arrested and charged with DUI on bicycles.
H/T Larry Taylor and Robert Guest.

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