The following provides an outline of the development of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST). Since the mid 1970’s, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), with the cooperation and assistance of the law enforcement community, has conducted research that resulted in the development of a battery of three standardized field sobriety tests. These tests are the horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk and turn and the one leg stand. They assist police officers in detecting impaired drivers.

Program Beginnings

The program, previously termed the improved sobriety testing, got validated in laboratory and field studies conducted by the Southern California Research Institute. Also, the Los Angeles Police Department started these tests. The methodology of conducting these tests is included in the NHTSA course “DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing”.

In 1986, the Advisory Committee on Highway Safety of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) passed a resolution. This resolution recommended that law enforcement agencies adopt and implement developed by NHTSA.

Expanding the Program

As the program grew, it became apparent that in order to insure continued success, it needed nationally accepted standards. Standardization that established criteria for the selection and training of SFST practitioners would help insure the continued high level of success of the SFST program. In 1992, the IACP Highway Safety Committee recommended the development of this system of nationally accepted standards.

In April of 1992, the IACP and NHTSA sponsored a meeting at the headquarters of IACP in Arlington, Virginia. Persons invited to this meeting included SFST instructors from several states, curriculum specialists and training administrators. The participants met in working groups to reach a consensus concerning the many issues relating to the SFST program. They also met to develop recommended minimum standards to the IACP Advisory Committee on Highway Safety. The standards went to the committee for their review at the midyear meeting in June 1992.