Utah Counting Backwards Test

Utah Counting Backwards Test

Non-Standardized Test

To ensure that the guidelines are consistent--and that the tests actually prove intoxication--the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed a series of three field sobriety tests that are used across the country to determine if a driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) was over the legal limit: the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the one-leg stand, and the walk-and-turn test. However, some officers may also use non-standardized field sobriety tests during the course of a driving under the influence (DUI) investigation.

The Counting Backwards Test

One example of a non-standardized test is the counting backwards test. With this test, the officer will ask you to count backwards from a certain number. He or she could ask you to count from ten to one or choose random numbers, such as telling you to start at 53 and count down to 35.

While you are performing this test, the officer will watch and listen for signs of intoxication, such as not following the directions, repeating or skipping numbers, not being able to remain balanced while counting, and not completing the test. If you exhibit any of these signs, the officer could place you under arrest for drunk driving.

Potential Defenses

Perhaps the best defense against the counting backwards test is that it is not part of the standardized field sobriety test series. Because it is not approved and regulated by the NHSTA, there are no guidelines on how it should be administered. In addition, there is no research supporting the claim that this test is accurate when determining whether or not a driver is intoxicated. Therefore, this test carries very little weight in court and shouldn't be used as the sole evidence of someone's level of impairment.

Several factors--other than intoxication--could also affect an individual's score on this test. For example, if you are nervous or extremely tired, it can be difficult to concentrate on the task at hand. This test can also be unreliable for individuals who do not speak English as a first language.