ATLANTA,None — When police officers stop a suspected drunk driver, they usually ask the driver to take a field sobriety test, but Channel 2 Action News spoke to some critics who said the tests are designed to fail.
Georgia drivers are not legally required to take a field sobriety test. Channel 2 Action News investigative reporter Richard Belcher looked into whether or not the tests work to provide valid evidence of a person's ability to drive.
"You can tell within a few minutes of doing the three tests whether or not someone is impaired by alcohol and or drugs," said Corporal Michael Blute with the Gwinnett County Police DUI Task Force.
The tests are used by police agencies all over the country and often require subjects to walk putting one foot in front of another, or standing holding one foot off the ground or take a nistagmus test, where drivers are asked to follow an officer's finger with his or her eyes.
"I would never recommend anyone take a field sobriety test," said Dr. Spurgeon Cole a retired psychology professor at Clemson University.
Cole is an expert in the study of measurements and a skeptic about the value of field sobriety tests.
"It is designed to fail. It's designed to fail. There are no norms, there is no average score. We have no idea what the average person could do on the one leg with the heel to toe," said Cole.
Cole told Belcher he has been studying the validity of the test since the 1980s and is convinced they are neither reliable nor valid.
"If you use all of them, and do them right. You are only 26 percent better than chance, 74 percent as much error as you would be if you just randomly guessed," said Cole.
Cole told Belcher the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which developed the tests in the 1970s, conducted one study in which trained police officers viewed field sobriety tests then incorrectly identified 47 percent of the drivers as intoxicated.
Blute said he is certain the tests are accurate.
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