Field Sobriety Tests: Part 3 – Walk and Turn
The Walk and Turn is one of the three standardized field sobriety tests approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to be used as evidence of DUI or Drunk Driving.
So what is it?
The Walk and Turn is the second least scientifically accurate of the NHTSA approved tests. NHTSA set guidelines for the proper administration of the test. During the instructions and test the police officer is looking for clues that supposedly indicate alcohol or drug impairment.
It is very important to note a couple of things here. First, you do not have to take any field sobriety tests. Second, the police can lie, trick, and manipulate you in to performing field sobriety tests.
If you agree to take the test, it begins with the officer giving test instructions. The officer will ask the driver to stand with one foot in front of the other, with the front foot heel touching the rear foot’s toes. In this test the first instruction is part of the test. If you come out of the heel to toe stance during the rest of the instructions, then that is a clue of your impairment. The officer further instructs the person to walk nine steps heel to toe down an imaginary line. Next, the officer instructs to turn around using small steps and walk back heel to toe down an imaginary line. The officer will then demonstrate the test. The officer will give further instructions to not stop walking once the driver has started and to count each step aloud. He or she will then ask if you understand.
If the driver:
- Starts before the instructions are finished
- Stops during the walking
- Makes an incorrect turn.
- Steps off the line
- Raises his or her arms 6 inches from his or her sides
- Makes an incorrect number of steps
Each one of these is considered a clue. Two clues shows that there is a 68 percent chance that the driver’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is .10 or greater. The officer is supposed to follow the guidelines, but frequently they conduct the test incorrectly. This opens the test to further inaccuracies.
From a legal standpoint, there are several problems with the Walk and Turn test.
First, there are several physical conditions that may cause clues resulting in a false positive.
- Knee problems
- Ankle problems
- Inner ear conditions
- Head injury or concussion
- Certain prescription medications
Second, a 68% chance that a driver has a .10 BAC or higher is not very certain at all. If your child came home with a 68 on a test, he or she got an F. There is a 32% chance that even when the test is administered perfectly that it will return a false positive.
Third, the police officer who suspects that you are impaired is the only person deciding if your performance indicates whether any of the clues were present. The test is also reliant on the officer to conduct the test as outlined by NHTSA. Oftentimes, the tests are not conducted correctly and that can skew the results.