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How accurate are field sobriety tests?

Like most people in Virginia, you have likely heard or read reports about people being arrested for drunk driving. Part of these reports often indicate that the driver failed a field sobriety test. But, before you assume that these tests are foolproof, you should educate yourself about the facts of these tests.

As explained by FieldSobrietyTests.org, the first thing all drivers should know is that no field sobriety test can prove that a person is intoxicated. In fact, that is not even what they are designed to do. Instead, these tests are used to give law enforcement officers enough reason to place a person under arrest by suggesting that the driver might possibly be drunk. Officers may use three tests that are standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, all of which have stated failure rates.

The most accurate of the three field sobriety tests is the eye test and its accuracy rate is only 77 percent. The other two tests, the one-leg test and the walk and turn test, have accuracy rates of 65 and 68 percent. Many physical conditions or impairments such as joint or leg problems, neurological conditoins and even obesity may make it impossible for a driver to successfully pass one or more of the field sobriety tests. 

This information is not intended to provide legal advice but is instead meant to give drivers in Virginia an idea of the types of things that might contribute to false results when taking a field sobriety test during a drunk driving investigation.

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