Like most California residents, you have probably heard references to field sobriety tests that drivers might be asked to participate in if an officer suspects they may be driving while impaired. However, do you know that there are many such tests that are not approved for use by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration?

As explained by, the NHTSA became involved in reviewing and approving field sobriety tests in part because there were so many different ones being used. This made it difficult to track and enforce proper protocols for administering the tests.

In the end there are only three field tests that the NHTSA has sanctioned and approved as standardized tests in a drunk driving investigation. These include the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the one-leg stand test and the walk-and-turn test. In addition to using these tests, law enforcement officers must administer them in very specific ways. Any deviation from approved protocol when giving these tests may open up the potential to have the results called into question.

Non-approved tests include those that evaluate vertical gaze nystagmus, ask a person to recite all or a portion of the alphabet and potentially even write it down or require a driver to count backwards. A test in which a person is asked to keep their head back and eyes closed and state when they believe a half of a minute has elapsed is also not sanctioned.

This information is not intended to provide legal advice but is instead meant to give California residents an overview of what field sobriety tests are actually approved for use by the NHTSA.