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Standardized Field Sobriety Testing

History and Development

Since the mid-1970s, 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 (horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk-and-turn, and the one leg stand) to assist police officers in detecting impaired drivers. The program, which was previously termed Improved Sobriety Testing, was initially developed by the Los Angeles Police Department and was validated in laboratory and field studies conducted by the Southern California Research Institute. Training in how to conduct the 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 which recommended that law enforcement agencies adopt and implement the field sobriety testing training program developed by NHTSA. As the program has grown, it has become apparent that in order to insure continued success, nationally accepted standards must be established. These standards, which establish 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 senior 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 and to develop recommended minimum standards to the IACP Advisory Committee on Highway Safety. The standards were drafted and presented to the committee for their review at the midyear meeting in June 1992.

The Advisory Committee on Highway Safety, by resolution, adopted the national

standards for the SFST Program. The standards were subsequently approved by voting membership of the IACP.  (see standards in program overview)

Maine has adopted the National Standards and has been instructing the SFST curriculum since the early 1990's.  Although we do not offer a certification in the SFST program, students that complete the classroom and field evaluations receive a non-lapsing certificate of proficiency in SFST.

The Maine Bureau of Highway Safety (MeBHS) provides oversight and funding for the SFST program in Maine. The MeBHS works closely with the Maine Criminal Justice Academy (MCJA) to support the SFST program.