Driving under the influence is a serious offense, and law enforcement employs various field sobriety tests to determine a driver’s level of impairment.
However, these tests are not foolproof, and several factors can influence their accuracy.
Alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents resulted in 13,384 deaths on U.S. roads according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, revealing the importance of sobriety tests. However, environmental factors, such as uneven terrain, poor lighting or adverse weather conditions can affect a person’s ability to perform certain tests. In addition, slippery roads or uneven surfaces may lead to balance issues.
Individuals with pre-existing physical limitations may struggle to perform field sobriety tests accurately. Conditions such as arthritis, back problems or inner ear disorders can impact a person’s balance and coordination. When these individuals cannot balance properly, law enforcement may misinterpret their tests.
Age and health status
Older individuals may experience natural declines in balance and coordination. These issues make certain tests challenging. In addition, individuals with health issues or chronic conditions may struggle with the physical tasks required during DUI field testing. For example, neurological disorders or conditions can affect muscle control.
Footwear and attire
High heels, restrictive clothing or unsuitable footwear may hinder balance and coordination. Law enforcement should consider these factors when assessing an individual’s performance.
Nervousness and anxiety
Being stopped by law enforcement can lead to heightened anxiety levels. Nervousness can affect a person’s ability to concentrate and follow instructions during field sobriety testing.
DUI field testing is a tool used to maintain road safety. However, law enforcement and the public should be aware of possible faults in DUI field sobriety assessments.