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North Carolina drunk driving: Purpose of the walk-and-turn test

Those who are pulled over by law enforcement officers for suspected impairment will likely be asked to participate in field sobriety tests. There are three standardized tests used in North Carolina, one being the walk-and-turn test. How is this test performed and does is accurately measure impairment?

The overall purpose of the walk-and-turn test is to measure two things: physical ability and mental state. If an officer suspects that one is impaired, he or she will want to see if one is able to understand directions and perform the exercise correctly. Failure of either part could result in one being arrested and charged for driving under the influence.

The walk-and-turn test is just what is sounds like. One will be asked to walk a certain number of steps along a straight line. Hands must be kept at one's sides and one must walk heel to toe. If one leaves, the line, stops, uses arms for balance or does not take the number of steps asked -- among other things -- he or she will fail the test.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the walk-and-turn test is accurate at detecting impairment about 66 percent of the time. They believe this is a high enough rating to keep using it. However, there is quite a bit of room for error, especially as this test is subjective and a number of issues can affect results. Those in North Carolina who believe that they have been wrongly accused of DUI due to the results of this or any other field sobriety test have the right to question the results in court. In doing so, it may be possible to have drunk driving charges dropped or any consequences of a conviction on such charges minimized.

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

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North Carolina drunk driving: Purpose of the walk-and-turn test | Messer Law Firm