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Percept Mot Skills. 1994 Aug;79(1 Pt 1):99-104.

Field sobriety tests: are they designed for failure?

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Department of Psychology, Clemson University, SC 29634.


Field sobriety tests have been used by law enforcement officers to identify alcohol-impaired drivers. Yet in 1981 Tharp, Burns, and Moskowitz found that 32% of individuals in a laboratory setting who were judged to have an alcohol level above the legal limit actually were below the level. In this study, two groups of seven law enforcement officers each viewed videotapes of 21 sober individuals performing a variety of field sobriety tests or normal-abilities tests, e.g., reciting one's address and phone number or walking in a normal manner. Officers judged a significantly larger number of the individuals as impaired when they performed the field sobriety tests than when they performed the normal-abilities tests. The need to reevaluate the predictive validity of field sobriety tests is discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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