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Attorneys Stephen G. Fabian Jr. and Brian P. Young

What to know about field sobriety tests in Oklahoma

On Behalf of | Nov 15, 2021 | DUI - Drunk Driving |

Even though many states have strict laws against DUI, drivers in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, still drive intoxicated. Officers have the right to stop drivers they suspect of drunk driving to conduct field tests. There are several types of field tests, but officers commonly use the standard sobriety tests.

Types of field sobriety tests

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) researched sobriety tests and made three of the standard, and officers started using them in 1981. They believe these tests are the best indicators of DUI by testing certain reflexes, such as blinking.

One of the standard tests is the walk-and-turn test, which requires the driver to walk in a straight line, heel to toe. The suspect begins the test when the officer tells him or her to, and then he or she turns on one leg and walks back the other way. During the one-leg stand test, the driver lifts one leg six inches above ground and balances for 30 seconds.

The horizontal gaze test checks for nystagmus, or involuntary eye-jerking movements, by having the driver follow an object. The police officer looks for certain cues for each test, and if the driver fails several, the officer may administer a Breathalyzer.

Challenging the accuracy of field sobriety tests

The eye test is accurate 77% of the time, the walk-and-turn test has a 68% accuracy rate, and the one-leg stand test produces a correct result 65% of the time. Research from the NHTSA showed that when all three tests are used, they have a combined 82% to 92% accuracy rate. However, the accuracy of these field sobriety tests is still debated because a sober driver can fail them.

Certain health conditions, age, weight, and test conditions may cause a sober person to fail the test. A wet pavement, gravel, or uneven ground can throw the driver off balance, and older people may have joint problems.

Oklahoma doesn’t legally require a driver to take these tests, but it can challenge the results. An officer needs probable cause to arrest drivers, and the lack of it could get the case dismissed.