People who are pulled over in Florida for suspected drunk driving might be asked to submit to a series of field sobriety tests, which are colloquially known as roadside tests. These are assessments designed to help law enforcement officers determine whether a driver is impaired by alcohol. One of these tests is called the walk-and-turn test, which can be difficult for people to pass even when they are sober.
What is the walk-and-turn test?
The walk-and-turn test is one of three standardized field sobriety tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standardized this test as a field indicator of alcohol impairment for use in drunk driving cases. However, the NHTSA admits that the walk-and-turn test is only accurate 66% of the time, which means that 34% of people who submit to this test fail it even though they are sober.
What is the testing procedure?
Police officers are trained to administer the walk-and-turn test by asking the test-taker to stand with their hands at their sides while placing their feet heel to toe while the officer reads the instructions. The test-taker will then be asked to walk nine, heel-to-toe steps on an imaginary line, pivot, and walk nine, heel-to-toe steps back to the starting point. During the test, the officer will observe the individual and mark down any mistakes they make, including stumbling, stepping off the line, lifting the arms, or failing to count steps out loud while walking.
Failing the walk-and-turn and other standardized field sobriety tests can be used by the police to secure probable cause for an arrest. However, people are not mandated to submit to field sobriety tests when asked to complete them by the police. If they do, the prosecutor can use their performance on the walk-and-turn and other tests as evidence that they were under the influence of alcohol while driving. If the test is administered incorrectly, it can be challenged in court, however.