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Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) Validation Studies

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  • Psychophysical Tests for DWI Arrests - June 1977 Final Report (1.75 Mb)
    Marcelline Burns & Herbert Moskowitz

    • Abstract: As part of DWI arrest procedures, tests of alcohol impairment may be used by police officers, either at roadside or in the station. Objectives of this study included evaluation of currently-used tests, development of more sensitive and reliable measures, and the standardization of test administration.

    • All of the 6 tests were found to be alcohol sensitive, and the officers made correct arrest/release decisions for 76% of the participants. Data analysis led to recommendations of a "best" reduced battery of tests which includes examination of balance (One-leg Stand) and walking (Walk-and-Turn), as well as the jerking nystagmus movement of the eyes (Alcohol Gaze Nystagmus).

  • Development and Field Test of Psychophysical Tests for DWI Arrest- 1981 Final Report (2.06 Mb)
    V. Tharp, M. Burns, and H. Moskowitz

    • Abstract: Administration and scoring procedures were standardized for a sobriety test battery consisting of the walk-and-turn test, the one leg stand test, and horizontal gaze nystagmus. The effectiveness of the standardized battery was then evaluated in the laboratory and, to a limited extent, in the field.

    • Ten police officers administered the tests in the laboratory to 297 drinking volunteers with blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) ranging from 0 to 0.18%. The officers were able to classify 81% of these volunteers, on the basis of their test scores, with respect to whether their BACs were above or below 0.10%. Officer estimates of the BACs of people they tested differed by 0.03% on the average from the actual BAC. Interrater and test-retest reliabilities for the test battery ranged from 0.60 to 0.80.

    • In a limited field evaluation police officers filled out 3128 data forms, each represented a driver stopped during a three month period. Police officers, after training on the administration and scoring procedures for the test battery, tended to increase their arrest rates and appeared to be more effective in estimating BACs of stopped drivers than they were before training. Anonymous breath testing of released drivers who were stopped indicated that many of the drinking drivers were never given a sobriety test.

  • Field Evaluation of a Behavioral Test Battery for DWI - September 1983 - (203 K)
    Theodore E. Anderson, Robert M. Schweitz, and Monroe B. Snyder

    • Abstract: This paper presents initial findings from a recently conducted field evaluation of a sobriety test battery. Police officers from four jurisdictions were trained in the use of the sobriety test battery. They then administered the battery to drivers stopped for suspicion of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) during the three month test period. The results indicate that the test battery can be easily administered in the field and is effective in determining whether a driver's Breath Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is above or below .10%.

  • An Experimental Evaluation of a Field Sobriety Test Battery in the Marine Environment- June 1990 - (2.25 Mb)
    E. Donald Sussman, Ann Needalman, and Peter H. Mengert

    • Abstract: This report describes an investigation of the accuracy of a FST (Field Sobriety Test) battery used in the marine environment. FSTs rely on the observation and measurement of the effect of alcohol intoxication on coordination, visual tracking and balance. The purpose of this study was to determine if there was any decrease in the accuracy of the tests when used under recreational boating conditions.

    • The overall correlation of the officers' FST based estimates with BACs obtained using breath tests was approximately .70. This level is consistent with similarly obtained correlations from highway studies. It was concluded that the accuracy of FST batteries are not degraded in the marine environment.

  • Colorado Validation Study of the SFST Battery - November 1995 Final Report - (140 K)
    Marcelline Burns & Ellen Anderson

    • Abstract: This study was designed to (1) gather data to assign officers' decisions to the four cells of the decision matrix and to (2) examine the accuracy of the SFST battery when used in the widely varying weather conditions of Colorado winter, spring, and summer months.

  • A Florida Validation Study of the Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) Battery - 1997
    Marcelline Burns & Teresa Dioquino

    • Study Hypothesis: DUI arrest decisions made by Florida law enforcement officers

      • who have been trained under NHTSA guidelines to administer, score, and interpret the SFSTs

      • who have developed experience and skill with the SFSTs

      • who use only the 3-test battery to examine suspected DUI drivers, and who do not have access to preliminary breath tester (PBT) will be equal to or greater than 90% correct, as confirmed by measured BACs.

  • Validation of the SFST Battery at BACs Below 0.10 Percent - August 1998
    Jack Stuster & Marcelline Burns

    • Abstract: This study evaluated the accuracy of the Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) Battery to assist officers in making arrest decisions for DWI at blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) below 0.10 percent. NHTSA's SFST battery was validated at 0.10 percent BAC in 1981. The trend to reduce statutory DWI limits to 0.08 percent BAC prompted this research project.

    • The results of this study provide clear evidence of the validity of the SFST battery to discriminate at 0.08 percent BAC, using a slightly modified scoring procedure. Further, study results strongly suggest that the SFSTs also accurately discriminate at 0.04 BAC.

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