What you should know about standardized field sobriety tests

On Behalf of | Sep 4, 2023 | DUI

When an officer believes a driver is violating traffic laws, they may pull over the vehicle during a traffic stop. The police may suspect the driver of drunk driving for a number of reasons, such as slurred speech, swerving, running red lights or drowsiness. 

Police may question the driver or ask the driver to perform a breath test. These kinds of examinations allow the police to collect more evidence on a driver. Another kind of examination the policy may do is standardized field sobriety tests. Here’s what you should understand: 

3 kinds of standardized field sobriety tests

Standardized field sobriety tests are physical examinations. When the police question drivers during traffic stops, they ask the driver to perform the three following field sobriety tests:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test: The driver may be asked to keep their head still and focus on a single point, such as a finger or pen. The officer will then move the object while the driver keeps their eyes focused on it. The driver could be drunk if they struggle to keep their focus.
  • Walk-and-turn test: The driver may be asked to walk on a straight line toe-to-heal on the side of the road. They should be told to take a certain amount of steps and return to where they started. Falling or taking the wrong number of steps could indicate inebriation.  
  • One-legged stand test: The driver may be asked to lift one leg up for several seconds. If the driver struggles to keep their leg up or stay balanced, the police could suspect that the driver is drunk.

The above tests are all sanctioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Any other tests, such as counting the alphabet backward, would be non-standard. 

Drivers who believe their rights are violated during traffic stops may seek legal alternatives.