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The psychometrics and science of standardized field sobriety tests, Part 1
By Steven Rubenzer
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) came under intense scrutiny by the defense community when they went into widespread use in the 1980s. At that time, the scientific literature to support their use was limited to two NHTSA-sponsored laboratory studies1 and two very modest field studies.2 Both the NHTSA researchers and critics pointed out that the tests had not proven themselves in the field and that studies done under roadside conditions were badly needed.
Many critics trenchantly derided the SFSTs and their supporting empirical base and detailed other significant problems.3 In the past seven years, three large-scale field studies have been conducted that potentially address some of the problems noted earlier. Indeed, Marcelline Burns, a primary researcher in the development of the SFSTs, has stated the initial laboratory studies have limited relevance to understanding the use and accuracy of the SFSTs 25 years la
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