Volume 50, Issue 3 (May 2005)
Statistical Evaluation of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) are used as qualitative indicators of impairment by alcohol in individuals suspected of DUI. Stuster and Burns authored a report on this testing and presented the SFSTs as being 91% accurate in predicting Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) as lying at or above 0.08%. Their conclusions regarding accuracy are heavily weighted by the large number of subjects with very high BAC levels. This present study re-analyzes the original data with a more complete statistical evaluation. Our evaluation indicates that the accuracy of the SFSTs depends on the BAC level and is much poorer than that indicated by Stuster and Burns. While the SFSTs may be usable for evaluating suspects for BAC, the means of evaluation must be significantly modified to represent the large degree of variability of BAC in relation to SFST test scores. The tests are likely to be mainly useful in identifying subjects with a BAC substantially greater than 0.08%. Given the moderate to high correlation of the tests with BAC, there is potential for improved application of the test after further development, including a more diverse sample of BAC levels, adjustment of the scoring system and a statistically-based method for using the SFST to predict a BAC greater than 0.08%.