Roadside Sobriety Tests: The World’s Scariest Pop Quiz (Part 1)

Been pulled over for suspected drunk driving? You’re about to get the world’s scariest pop quiz!


Have you ever been pulled over by a cop who thinks you’ve had one too many? Even if you aren’t technically over the legal limit for driving in Michigan, a roadside sobriety test is terrifying! Being required to step out of your vehicle and run through a series of tricks, like a performing monkey, on the side of the road for all to see is scary and humiliating. One of our clients described it as the scariest pop quiz he’d ever taken. Attorney John English at The Kronzek Firm is certified in Field Sobriety Testing.

Part of what made it scary, our client explained, was the ‘unknown’ factors. Being stopped by the police is uncomfortable. Being questioned and assessed by a police officer isn’t fun. Knowing that you may be arrested is actually nerve-wracking. Nevertheless, one of the scariest things, according this particular client, is not knowing what to expect. So with that in mind, we’ve created this handy breakdown of what the average drunk driving stop involves, so that if it ever happens to you, at least you’ll be prepared. Remember first and foremost, you have every right to refuse to participate in these field sobriety tests, also call FST.


The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test:

Nystagmus may sound like a questionable ingredient in donut frosting, but in actual fact it’s a vision condition in which the eyes make repetitive, uncontrolled movements. According to the American Optometric Association, “These movements often result in reduced vision and depth perception and can affect balance and coordination.”


So how does this play into a roadside sobriety test? Simple. This is the test where an officer has you watch a pen or a flashlight that is being moved slowly from side to side. Nystagmus, or involuntary shaking of the eyes, happens naturally at the extremes of your periphery. However, when someone is intoxicated it can happen at less steep angles. This is what the cop will be looking for as he watches you watching the pen.


According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Association, this test is about 88% accurate. However, while intoxication causes shaking in the eyes, so do a whole lot of other things! These causes include:


  • Poor development of normal eye movement control
  • Albinism
  • Nearsightedness (myopia) or astigmatism
  • Congenital cataracts
  • Inflammation of the inner ear
  • Certain medications, like anti-epilepsy drugs
  • Central nervous system diseases


Join us next time for a breakdown of the “walk-and-turn” and the “one-leg-stand”. Until then, if you or a loved one have been accused of drunk driving in Michigan (and had to do the cop’s terrifying pop quiz), call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245 immediately. Our highly skilled drunk driving attorneys have spent decades defending the people of Michigan against DUI charges. We can help you too!


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