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Louisiana drunk driving: What is the walk-and-turn test?

In a previous post, this column addressed one of the several standardized field sobriety tests used in Louisiana, the one-leg stand test. This week's post will go over another test that is commonly used on those suspected of drunk driving, the walk and turn. Why is it used and is it an accurate measurement of impairment?

When a law enforcement officer asks one to perform the walk-and-turn test, he or she is looking for two things. The first is to see if one is able to follow directions. The second is to check one's physical ability to perform the test. To perform the walk-and-turn test, one will be asked to walk heel to toe in a straight line, pivot around and do it again. While doing this, both arms must remain at one's sides.

Why is this test used? The inability to follow directions and a lack of balance are deemed signs of impairment. While these two things can indicate impairment, it does not mean that this test is 100 percent accurate. Medical conditions, shoes, age, weight and a number of other factors can affect one's ability to perform this test accurately.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this test is believed to be accurate 66 percent of the time if the circumstances are ideal. That is a lot of room for error. Those in Louisiana who have been arrested and charged for drunk driving based on this or any other field sobriety test have the right the question the results in court. In doing so, it may be possible to fight the charges at hand or seek to minimize any potential consequences.

Source: fieldsobrietytests.org, "Walk-and-Turn Test", Accessed on May 15, 2017

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