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The psychometrics and science of the standardized field sobriety tests (Part 2)
By Steve Rubenzer
Standardization problems – As the name implies, the SFSTs gain their special status
because they have been standardized, meaning specific rules for
administering, scoring, and interpretation have been specified and researched.
Standardization is crucial if
research findings are used to support the validity of the tests, since a test
that is modified is no longer the same test. As the National Highway
Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) states, “If any one of the
standardized field sobriety test elements is changed, the validity is
compromised.”1 A number of courts have held that if not properly
administered, the SFSTs are not admissible.2
The following problem areas are
organized in the chronological order that the SFSTs are administered and
1. Screening questions for possible medical problems and
conditions should be standardized and validated.
The NHTSA Student Manual states the
officer should ask about certain topics, but does not specify the form of
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