The Walk-and-Turn Test
Interviewer: Let’s talk about the walk-and-turn test. What does that entail?
Steve Tomeo: The walk-and-turn test is another part of the standard field sobriety test. In Connecticut, it’s generally the second test that they give you. The first test that they give you on the standard field sobriety test is usually the horizontal gaze Nystagmus test, the eye test. The second test they give you is the walk-and-turn test.
They do not have to give them to you in any particular order in Connecticut. Nothing is mandatory here. It’s just that when these tests were developed, these tests were considered to be given in a standardized format and that standardized format was the first test being the horizontal gaze Nystagmus test, the second test being the walk-and-turn test and the third test being the one-leg stand test. These tests have been in existence for many years.
The Walk-and-turn Test Entails Listening to Instructions and Performing Them in a Standardized Manner
The walk-and-turn test has an instructional stage and walking stage. In the instructions, the law enforcement officer is supposed to tell you to do certain things in a certain manner. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has the instructions for these tests printed on a card. Some police officers adhere to the card in the order that these tests are supposed to be given along with the instructions.
There Are 8 Instructions for This Test
For instance, the card on the walk-and-turn instructions has eight things they are supposed to tell you, the police officer’s supposed to tell you to do. The first thing is he’s supposed to give you an instruction. The instructional phase is put your left foot on the line and put your right foot in front of it with your right heel touching your left toe. You should keep your hands at your side. The officer is supposed to demonstrate that. The second thing he’s supposed to say is, “Do not start until I tell you to”.
The third is, “Do you understand the directions?” Fourth, “When I tell you to begin take nine heel-to-toe steps on the line. Turn around keeping one foot on the line and return in nine heel-to-toe steps.” Then at that point, he’s supposed to demonstrate what he means by heel to toe. Generally, the instructions call for him to take three steps to give the person an idea how it is he wants them to walk heel to toe.
Then he’s supposed to tell them on the ninth step, keep the front foot on the line and turn by taking several small steps with the other foot and he’s supposed to demonstrate that turn. The sixth he’s supposed to say while walking, watch your feet at all times. Keep your arms at your side. Count the steps out loud. Once you begin do not stop until the test is completed. Then he asks, “Do you understand the instructions?” If you say yes then he says, “You may begin the test.”
The Length of the Instructions Makes Them Difficult to Follow, Especially When the Driver Is Nervous
That’s a lot of wording for people to remember and to pay attention to, especially when they are nervous and worried about the predicament that they are in. We have this arrest form in Connecticut that police officer checks off as what you didn’t do. If you didn’t walk heel to toe they check no heel to toe. I think there are eight things on the check-off that they say you were supposed to do but didn’t do.
Actually, it’s more than eight things to do. You are taking nine steps, you are walking nine steps one way and nine steps back in the opposite direction. That’s a total of 18 items but yet, if you miss one heel to toe, they can mark you off on that. If you do 17 of the steps heel to toe and one you do not, they can mark you off on that.
The Gait and Turning Method You Are Asked to Perform Is Unnatural for the Majority of People Undergoing This Test
Normally, when you take a test in school, you do pretty well if you only get one of those items wrong. You’re probably at the top of your class. Just think of all the things that you have to do on a walk-and-turn test. You got to take 18 steps while walking 18 steps then each of those steps have to be heel to toe. That’s another 18 functions.
You must to turn around in a certain way, keep your front foot on the line and turn by taking several small steps with the other foot. It’s not a pivot turn like you’re in the military. It’s nothing like that. There are all those functions. Then you’re supposed to watch your feet while you’re walking, keep your arms at your side, count the steps you take out loud, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine.
Once you begin you’re not to stop, so once you start the test you’re supposed to just keep it in motion until completion. You’re not supposed to stop and steady yourself or anything like that. There are many physical functions that you have to do.
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