Callaghan & Callaghan – Attorneys – Rhode Island



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Wickford Village
North Kingstown, RI 02852

DUI Arrests: The science behind field sobriety tests

Many alcohol related stops involve field sobriety tests. The tests are called “Divided Attention Tests.” Police officers request that drivers submit to these tests because they are meant to cause a person to exercise the same mental and physical capabilities needed for safe driving. Those capabilities include:

  • Information processing
  • Short term memory
  • Judgment and decision making
  • Balance
  • Steady sure reactions
  • Clear vision
  • Small muscle control
  • Coordination of limbs

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has spent years studying the effects of alcohol on driving. Based on their research they have found that a person’s blood alcohol level (BAC) generally affects a person in the following ways:

  • 0.03% BAC: Slowed reactions
  • 0.05% BAC: Increased risk taking
  • 0.08% BAC: Impaired vision
  • 0.10% BAC: Poor Coordination

Field Sobriety Tests are designed to help officers determine if a person can safely operate a motor vehicle. In a sense, they are used by police officers to determine a person’s BAC. Tests like the walk and turn are supposed to reflect the reflexes and thought processees needed to drive a car safely.

The walk and turn offers eight separate opportunities for a person to show he or she can safely drive. According to NHTSA, if a person exhibits any two (2) of the following eight (8) clues, their BAC is likely above 0.10%. NHTSA’s testing has found this test accurate 68% of the time.

If you are stopped and an officer asks you to perform the walk and turn, the combination of any two of these clues could lead the officer to conclude that you are unable to safely operate your motor vehicle:

  • Cannot balance during instruction
  • Starts too soon
  • Stops while walking
  • Does not touch heel to toe
  • Steps off line
  • Uses arms to balance
  • Loses balance on turns
  • Takes wrong number of steps.

When stopped by a police officer and asked to perform a field sobriety test – stop and think. If you will have trouble performing any of the field sobriety tests for any reason – you may not want to submit to those tests. Call Callaghan & Callaghan today for a free consultation on any alcohol related driving offense: (401) 294-4555

The information contained in this website is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. No recipients of content from this site, clients or otherwise, should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included in the site without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from an attorney licensed in the state of Rhode Island.]