Breathalyser and Field Sobriety Test
Motorists can be stopped by police and required to take a breathalyser test at a road traffic accident scene.
Police may pull you over for various reasons. You might get pulled over for speeding, reckless driving, running a red light, or an equipment violation. However, one obvious reason is the suspicion of drunk driving. Many indications can help a police officer spot an impaired driver. The following signs can reveal if someone is driving under the influence and by conducting your own breath test can also give you an accurate indication:
- Driving at unreasonably low or excessively high speeds
- Ignoring traffic signs
- Driving without lights
- Following another car too closely.
- Changing lanes frequently
- Driving with turn signals on
- Making extremely wide turns, and so on.
So, when a police officer notices some of these signs, they will pull you over to check your blood alcohol content. You may be requested to do a field sobriety test first, and if it’s not conclusive, the police officer will administer a breathalyser test. Breathalyser tests are mandatory, but you can refuse to do a field sobriety test.
Although field sobriety tests are somewhat controversial, as they are based on the police officer’s subjective opinion on how drunk a person is, they are still conducted in NZ. There are three standardised tests: the one-leg stand, the walk and turn, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.
The Standardised Tests
You have to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line. This is called the walk-and-turn test. After the nine steps, you have to turn and take another nine steps going back to the starting point. If you can’t touch heel-to-toe, or you use your arms to maintain balance, or you take more or fewer steps than what the officer has instructed, the police officer will consider that you are driving under the influence of alcohol.
In the one-leg stand test, you have to try and stand on one leg for 30 seconds, while counting aloud. Your other foot has to be 6 inches off the ground. If you try to balance your arms or put your foot down, you will fail the test.
These are the standardised tests, which are conducted most often. Apart from that, there are several other tests that you may be asked to do. For example, you may have to count backwards or recite the alphabet. Another one is by closing your eyes and trying to touch your nose. This is called the finger-to-nose test.
So, even though the validity and reliability of field sobriety tests are disputed, drivers have to be aware that many officers use them to determine if someone has high blood alcohol content. You might get pulled over and have to respond at any moment.
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