Field sobriety tests are commonly used throughout Virginia to help determine if an individual has been driving under the influence. But just how good are these tests at identifying drunk drivers?

Clemson Study

Two researchers at Clemson University decided to look into whether field sobriety tests were actually accurate. They conducted a study involving 14 police officers who were told to view videotapes of 21 people taking a field sobriety test, and then determine which of the subjects were legally intoxicated.

On average, the officers classified 46% of the group as being too drunk to drive. Unfortunately, the officers didn't fare very well - because the actual number of intoxicated persons in the study

The results of this field sobriety test study are disturbing because it means that in nearly half of these cases, an innocent person would have been wrongly arrested for driving under the influence

Different Results with "Normal" Activities

The Clemson study also went a step further. Researchers had these same subjects perform one of a series of so-called "normal" activities on camera for the officers in the study to observe.

These tasks included:

  • counting from 1 to 10
  • reciting personal information (Social Security number, address, phone number, etc.)
  • walking normally 

After viewing the same 21 people performing these tasks, the officers determined that only 15% on average of them were legally intoxicated, which was still significantly inaccurate.

Comparing this result to the previous 46% figure led the researchers to conclude that simply participating in field sobriety tests made the individuals appear to be drunk.

Browse our library for more information on field sobriety tests

The penalties for DUI in Virginia are too severe to permit courts to ‘look the other way' when police officers make errors. However, there is one certainty at a DUI trial - the DUI defendant cannot prevail on an issue his lawyer fails to recognize and raise!

If you have been arrested for DUI in Virginia, there is no time to waste! Contact Virginia DUI Lawyer Bob Battle to schedule your legal consultation today - 804-673-5600.

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