Smooth Pursuit

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Definition of Smooth Pursuit

Smooth pursuit refers to a driver's ability to track a small light or pen as the police officer is testing their horizontal gaze nystagmus in a standardized field sobriety test. The officer slowly moves the stimulus horizontally in front of the driver's face and evaluates the driver's ability to track the object as it moves from side to side. Drivers who have an elevated blood alcohol concentration level will be unable to smoothly track the object and their eyes will bounce or jerk.

Nystagmus is common in small degrees in all drivers under normal conditions, but is generally not visible to the naked eye. Intoxicated drivers, however, will have a distinct nystagmus which is increased due to the effects of the alcohol.

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