Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
Degree Granting Department
Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
Elizabeth Shaunessy-Dedrick, Ph.D.
John Mann, Ed.D.
drunk-driving, alcohol impairment
In the early 1980’s within the United States, state legislatures criminalized the practice of driving under the influence of alcohol due to the efforts of moral entrepreneurs such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving that served to vilify the drunk-driver. During the political culture of the early 1980’s, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sought to develop field sobriety tests that would assist law enforcement in the detection and arrest of drunk drivers.
This study provided a brief historical account of the development of the NHTSA Standardized Field Sobriety Test battery, which consisted of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, the Walk and Turn test, and the One Leg Stand test, as a tool used in the investigation and prosecution of suspects charged with the crime of driving under the influence of alcohol.The study utilized document analysis in order to demonstrate (1) how the NHTSA Standardized Field Sobriety Tests were pilot tested for use in driving under the influence of alcohol cases and (2) to explore various criticisms levied against the development and use of the NHTSA Standardized Field Sobriety Tests for the investigation of the crime of driving under the influence of alcohol.
This study concluded that although many of the early government funded pilot studies suggested that the NHTSA Standardized Field Sobriety Tests were valid at predicting a breath alcohol concentration at or above the legal limit, there are multiple criticisms surrounding these tests that call into question the validity of these tests when used in the investigation of driving under the influence of alcohol offenses. Brief recommendations for future research and policy development in the investigation of driving under the influence of alcohol cases were provided.
Scholar Commons Citation
Gurney, Jon D., "Walking the Line: Understanding the History and Development of the NHTSA Standardized Field Sobriety Tests" (2021). USF Tampa Graduate Theses and Dissertations.