Walk-and-Turn

Interviewer: What about the walk-a-straight-line test?

Court Koehler: Yeah, Walk-and-Turn. So what they do is you have a line and ideally the officer is supposed to use an actual line. If the officer doesn’t use an actual line – like, for instance, a parking lot line – then it’s going to be more difficult. What you’re dealing with is the officer is looking for very minute clues, like if you step off of the line more than half an inch. And literally half an inch is a pretty small distance to step off the line. But if you step off the line more than that, the officer is going to note that as a clue. But if you don’t know where the line is and how thick it is, it’s really difficult to say whether or not you actually stepped off of the line. So they are supposed to use a line and a line isn’t always available. So sometimes they can’t.

That’s one of the things that we look for: if there’s a line that was used, then that’s good. It’s going to provide for a better test. If there was not an actual line that was used, that’s already one thing that makes this test less accurate right off the bat. What you do is you put your foot on the line and then you take your other foot and you put it on the line right in front of you and you have to have your heel touching the front toe of your opposite foot. Then you go and repeat that process. You take nine steps down and then when you get to the end – this is the part almost everybody messes up – you’re supposed to turn around. But when you turn, they say keep your foot on the line and turn taking a series of small steps with the other foot.

Almost everybody doesn’t do that the right way because it’s such an awkward and strange way to turn around. They’ll just pivot and take one step or they’ll just move both feet, or something like that. That’s a clue that I see almost every time. Everybody fails that. That’s one of those things about communication. The officer, maybe he doesn’t give them directions the right way or in the first place it’s kind of a really strange direction to give, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense. So I see people fail that all the time.

So then after you turn around, you come back the other way. You take another nine steps back. You’re also supposed to count the steps as you go. The things you can mess up on this test are, like I said, if you turn the wrong way, if you take the wrong number of steps, if you stop while you’re walking or if you have to use your arms to balance or anything like that, that’s a clue. If you step off the line more than half an inch, that’s a clue. If you use your arms to balance, that’s a clue.

Like I said before, a lot of the clues have to do with just following the instructions. Another clue is that you have to have your heel and your toe touching on each step. So if you miss that – if you step too far by more than, I think, two inches or something like that – then that’s a clue as well.

People see this test on TV or in the movies and they think that the test is all about is balance. You’re supposed to walk along the line and if you can do it and look like you have balance, then you pass the test. But in reality there are all these little other things that are going on: you have to touch your toe the right way, to your heel, and you have to not step off the line more than half an inch and you have to turn around the right way. The test is really not so much about balance as it is just following these ridiculously complex instructions.

By Court Koehler

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