Manual Monday – SFST 02.22.2021
The NHTSA SFST, ARIDE, and DRE instructor manuals contain language referred to as “Instructor Notes”. These instructor notes are language that is in the instructor manual but NOT in the student manual and requires the course instructor to verbally pass the information onto the students.
One of the eight standardized clues for the Walk and Turn test is “improper turn”. If a driver takes 9 steps as required, the driver’s lead foot during the turn is their left foot and the right foot is the foot they take several small steps with. But, if the driver takes 8 steps, 10 steps, or any even number of steps, their lead foot during the turn is their right foot instead of their left foot and they would be turning taking several smalls steps with their left foot instead of their right foot. Because they are turning on the wrong lead foot and in the wrong direction, that is scored as an “improper turn”, right? Wrong!
According to an instructor note in the NHTSA SFST instructor manual, “Inform the participants there may be times when the suspect takes a wrong number of steps or begins the heel‐to‐toe walk with the wrong foot resulting in a turn on the right foot instead of the left. If this occurs the suspect would normally be assessed a clue for an incorrect number of steps and not assessed a clue for an improper turn if the turn was made using a series of small steps as instructed and the suspect did not lose his/her balance while attempting the turn” (2018 revision, session 8, page 68).
Improper turn is one of the most mis-scored clues during the Walk and Turn test. The test does not require the driver’s lead foot to be the left foot during the turn. If the driver turns on their lead foot, no matter which foot it is, and takes several small steps with the other foot, it is NOT an “improper turn”.
Know the manual better than the officer, even when it is language contained only in the instructor manual!
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