Field sobriety tests are not necessarily accurate

There are many ways a driver can fail a field sobriety test despite being sober. Physical impairments that affect balance are just one of these ways.

During the holiday season, summertime and throughout the months in between, law enforcement in Tennessee will be watching for drunk drivers. Officers use numerous methods to catch people they suspect of driving while intoxicated before an accident occurs. One of these methods is the field sobriety test. Drivers who are pulled over for traffic stops may be asked to perform these tests on the side of the road, if the officer has reason to suspect that the driver has been drinking. The following points address some of the questions a person might have about this type of test.

What will I be asked to do during a field sobriety test?

The Standardized Field Sobriety test includes a battery of physical and cognitive tests designed to spot signs of drunk driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These include the following:

• One-leg stand. During this test, the driver will be asked to stand on one leg while counting, without losing balance.

• Walk-and-turn. This test requires the driver to walk in a straight line and then turn around and walk back in the same direction without falling over or using the arms to balance.

• Horizontal gaze nystagmus. An officer will look at the driver's eyes during this test to measure involuntary movements that may signify intoxication.

These tests measure a subject's balance, coordination and ability to follow directions. A police officer may also look for other clues, such as the smell of alcohol or having red or bloodshot eyes.

How accurate are field sobriety tests?

Some say the test is designed to fail, according to NBC 29 News. During testing of the procedure, it was determined that the horizontal gaze nystagmus was 77 percent accurate, the walk-and-turn accurate 68 percent of the time and the one-leg stand only 65 percent reliable.

Would it be easy to fail the test while sober?

According to ABC Action News, some people may be falsely accused of a crime after failing the test for any number of reasons. They may have a cognitive or speech impairment that makes an officer think their slurred or halting speech is an effect of intoxication. A driver with an injury, problems balancing or a condition that affects walking or movement may be mistaken as drunk. It is also possible for driver simply to be so nervous that he or she performs poorly on the test or fails to follow directions.

If you are arrested for drunk driving, you are entitled to fair treatment by the court. You may need to get in touch with a DUI defense attorney in Tennessee to protect your rights.