The walk-and-turn test is a component of the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) standardized field sobriety tests. It was developed through a series of scientific studies by the NHTSA and the Southern California Research Institute. The goal of the walk-and-turn test (in conjunction with the horizontal nystagmus and the one-leg stand test) is to help law enforcement officers identify drivers who are driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).
The walk-and-turn test is performed using systematic standards and procedures, and it is considered a divided attention test because it will test the driver's ability to perform several tasks simultaneously. Scientific studies have concluded that intoxicated drivers will have difficulty performing simple mental tasks and physical exercises at the same time.
For the walk-and-turn test the driver is asked to take nine steps forward, heel-to-toe, along a straight line. Then the suspect must turn on one foot and return back along the line, heel-to-toe, until they reach starting point. To determine impairment, the law enforcement officer is evaluating key indicators such as: whether the driver kept their balance, whether they started the test prematurely, whether they had to stop during the test, whether they walked heel-to-toe, whether they stepped off the line, whether they made a proper turn, and whether they took the right number of steps.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Association claims that if an individual exhibits two or more of the intoxication indicators there is a 79% chance that their BAC or blood alcohol concentration will be 0.08% or higher (Stuster and Burns, 1998).
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