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Why can sober drivers fail field sobriety tests?

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2023 | DUI

No matter why law enforcement stops drivers, if the officers suspect intoxication, they can request the drivers to perform field sobriety tests. While these tests help identify impaired drivers, a failed test does not always indicate intoxication.

Several factors may contribute to failed sobriety tests. Drivers should be aware that they may fail these tests if they drive under these conditions.


Drivers can feel tired after a long day at work or when driving for several hours. If the drivers get stopped, they may have a hard time completing field sobriety tests for several reasons:

  • Leg and hand muscle cramps from sitting in vehicles for an extended time can make the physical performance of the test challenging
  • Exhaustion can interfere with drivers’ ability to understand verbal directions from law enforcement
  • Drivers may have a difficult time focusing on close objects after having to focus on long distances for several hours

If tired drivers have been consuming caffeine to help stay alert, the caffeine may also contribute to poor performance on these tests.


Millions of drivers take medication for various conditions. Sometimes these medications may have sudden or unknown side effects, such as dizziness, headaches and eye twitching, that can impact drivers’ ability to pass a field sobriety test.


Getting pulled over by law enforcement can make even make the best drivers nervous. Anxiety can make people feel lightheaded, have the jitters or cause their legs and arms to feel numb. These physical manifestations can cause drivers to perform poorly on a field sobriety test.

Even though drivers are not intoxicated if they fail a field sobriety test, law enforcement can arrest drivers for reckless driving if they are a danger to others on the road.