Study Suggests Romberg Test Unreliable
The Romberg test is a medical assessment of the inner ear developed by European physician Moritz Heinrich Romberg in the 1800s. An Orange County DUI lawyer reviewed relevant studies of the test’s validity as a sobriety measure.
In one research effort, 104 subjects aged 18-52 stood with feet together and arms at their sides. They held that pose while following a police officer’s instructions. Participants were told to tilt their heads back with their eyes closed and, while in that position, guess when 30 seconds had elapsed. When a subject opened his or her eyes the officer asked them to estimate how much time had passed. When all subjects completed this test, the results were examined.
It turned out that the subjects were all able to estimate the elapsed time within +/- 23 seconds compared to 30 seconds. About 88 percent (cumulative including better scorers) estimated the time within +/-15 seconds and 78.9 percent (cumulative) within just +/-10 seconds.
In addition, subjects’ eyelid flutters were noted, exhibited in more than two-thirds of the subjects. About 57 percent exhibited swaying. Less than one-third of participants showed none, and more than half swayed one to two inches. About a quarter swayed more; the other quarter less. The variation in performance on the test was reportedly expected since factors such as age, weight and fitness affect balance.
This study shows that even with sober subjects, test results can vary widely.
Not a Reliable Indicator
More specifically, national studies suggest that the Romberg test is not a reliable indicator of intoxication for those with a blood alcohol content greater than 0.08%. A Florida study in particular found several false positives in which drivers with BACs under 0.08% were arrested for DUI incorrectly, despite the use of the Romberg test in some of the cases.
It may seem too challenging to keep up with all the latest research on the battery of standardized field sobriety tests, not to mention the non-standardized measures that police officers also use. If you have been arrested for a DUI, you will need an experienced Orange DUI lawyer who knows the law, the courts and the latest research. Call the Law Offices of Coffey & Coffey at (800) 706-7888 for a free consultation today.