Walk and Turn

Types of Tests:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
  • Walk and Turn
  • One-leg Stand

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration has established several field sobriety tests to help officers determine if a driver is under the influence of alcohol. The “walk and turn” is one such test, and when administered properly, it is 68% accurate in identifying blood alcohol content levels of .10% and above.

The walk and turn test is a simple, quick test consisting of two parts. The officer explains and demonstrates what is required of the subject so that there is no confusion. In the first part, the officer asks the subject to place one foot in front of the other in a straight line with the heel of one foot touching the toes of the other. If the driver does not follow the officer’s instructions, or if he or she begins the test before instructed to do so, it may be the first sign that the person is intoxicated.

In the second part of the test, the officer demonstrates and explains how the diver is to walk along the designated straight line. The officer instructs the diver to take nine heel-to-toe steps down the line. After the nine steps are taken, the driver must turn around, taking a series of small steps, and return to where he or she started by taking another nine heel-to-toe steps.

During the walk, the subject is to keep his or her hands at the side, watch the feet at all times, and count each step aloud. The driver is not supposed to stop at any point until the test is completed.

While a person performs the walk and turn test, the officer looks for several things that may indicate that the person is under the influence of alcohol. If the officer observes two or more of any of the following clues, then it is probable that the subject has a blood alcohol content level of .10% or above:

  • Inability to stay balanced while receiving instructions
  • Starting or stopping the test before indicated
  • Failure to touch heel-to-toe
  • Stepping off of the line
  • Using arms to balance
  • Improperly turning
  • Using the incorrect number of steps

The walk and turn test must be performed on dry, hard, level land so as not to interfere with the test. If an officer does not ensure these conditions, the test results may be inadmissible in court. If a person is wearing heels above two inches, he or she is allowed to remove them.

The elderly, people with back, leg, or middle ear problems, and overweight people often have difficulty with this test when sober. Therefore, it can be difficult to determine whether or not they have been drinking. On these occasions, officers usually back up the one-leg stand test with the horizontal gaze nystagmus field test or a breathalyzer test.