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Could You Pass a Walk-And-Turn Sobriety Test Right Now?

Aug. 30, 2017

If you've never experienced a field sobriety test, this is how one of the main ones is supposed to work. It's called the "walk-and-turn."

  1. You are directed either to the line at the side of the road, a line the officer draws with chalk or maybe just to told to imagine a straight line on the ground. So far, so good?

  2. Next, you need to put one foot on the line with your other foot in front, touching its heel to the toes of your other foot. Got it?

  3. When the officer tells you to start, take nine steps, heels touching toes, without wobbling too hard or putting your arms out like a kid playing "airplane" to balance or stepping off the (possibly imaginary) line. Count each step out loud. Is this starting to sound harder?

  4. On the ninth step, pivot around like you're in a marching band, still balancing, without waving your arms around or hopping. Take nine more identical steps back, again counting each step.

If, by the end of those instructions, you were thinking something along the lines of "I'd fall over and break my neck trying to do that," you aren't alone.

This particular test has, at best, a 66 percent accuracy rate -- but only if it is administered perfectly to a perfect test subject. The officer has to be 100 percent clear about the instructions and know exactly what is in the range of normal variations for ordinary, sober human beings.

The perfect test subject is physically fit without any conditions that might impair his or her ability to balance (like an ear infection, a headache, low blood sugar or age). He or she should be able to concentrate (despite the anxiety of the situation and the fact that he or she is probably at the side of the road with cars of curious onlookers whizzing by at high speeds), and able to nail down what is essentially a tough task on the first try.

Pivoting may be impossible if you have any medical condition (like arthritis) that makes it impossible to put all of your weight on one foot, ankle, knee or hip.

Is it any wonder that people fail field sobriety tests while sober?

If you've been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) based on a failed field sobriety test, talk to an attorney today about mounting a defense.

Source: Alcohol Problems and Solutions, "Failed Field Sobriety Test Happens to Sober Drivers Often," accessed Aug. 30, 2017