Where do I begin? Judges, jurors, district attorneys, cops, MADD? Let's start where it belongs: the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA). Back in 1977, the government gave NHTSA a grant to create some roadside tests for DWI arrests. Dr. Marcelline Burns, who holds a Ph.D in psychology was given carte blanche authority on this project. She came up with the field tests we know today. Her research was so bad (flunking on both the validity and reliability scales researchers measure tests against), that she reattempted her same research in 1981 with the same scientifically unacceptable results. This time she refused to release the validity data. Same story- when the feds lowered the legal limit from .10 to .08 she conducted three "studies" (San Diego, Colorado, and Florida) in an attempt to justify her tests to the lower legal limit. It was such a massive failure she refused to release the validity or reliability data. Federal judge Grimm in an exhaustive review of her data and current scientific peer review research held in U.S. v. Horn, 185 F. Supp. 2d 530 (D. Maryland 2002), that what law enforcement calls as the "standardized" field sobriety tests are unsuitable for use. Yet, law enforcement all across the country continue to use these substandard tests and imprison people on this basis. Throughout the years, although the tests have not changed (that is why they call them "standardized") NHTSA has removed critical limiting language. For example, the portion that warns that the "validity of the tests may be compromised" if the tests are not given in a standardized manner has been removed. In a brazen move, they have even now inserted a provision that these tests are not affected by varying environmental conditions. It does not take a Ph.D in psychology to know that ice, wind gales and wet, slippery surfaces will affect the tests despite their catchall disclaimer.
I am ashamed we have a federal agency that is so dishonest. I am ashamed that law enforcement does not reject research and tests that do not meet basic mathematical and scientific peer review standards. The fact we allow our fellow citizens to be arrested, convicted and have their lives ruined on this is unacceptable. This is reality. This is truth and this is wrong.
* I have a paper and presentation both published and presented nationally on this subject. Feel free to request a copy.