NC police departments use drunk volunteers for field sobriety training

LELAND, N.C. (WECT) — Police officers used volunteers who had been drinking liquor for an afternoon to practice tests designed to spot impaired drivers.

Police practiced impairment tests on drunk volunteers Wednesday (WECT)
Police practiced impairment tests on drunk volunteers Wednesday (WECT)

Officers from Leland, Southport, Wrightsville Beach, Shallotte, Surf City and Oak Island participated in the training.

The tests included having the subject follow an officer’s finger with their eyes, walk toe-to-heel in a straight line, and stand on one foot for balance.

For the officers, it’s a huge advantage.

“It helps out tremendously because we’re actually being able to see what an impaired subject we may come across is looking like,” Officer Taube of Wrightsville Beach Police said. “If it’s looking at a video or looking at a sober person it’s really hard to gauge because they’re not exhibiting the clues that you’re looking for while you’re learning.”

Al Barnes, who teaches the program under North Carolina Forensic Tests for Alcohol, said just because a subject does not have a 0.08 blood alcohol content level does not excuse them from being considered impaired.

Officers did not use machinery during Wednesday’s training to determine if the volunteer was impaired.

“They’re looking for signs of impairment,” Barnes said. “It’s not based upon a number. It’s based upon impairment… It can be by any substance.”

With holiday parties leading to an increased risk of impaired drivers on the road, officers said the training helps them feel more prepared.

“If they want to go out and have a good time, that’s fine, but making sure that you’re not drinking and driving is the biggest concern,” Taube said. “You can go out and kill somebody on the road. So with us having this training, being this close to the holidays, we’re going to be a little bit more prepared going into these holidays with the amount of traffic and the amount of road travel that’s going to be out there on the roads.”

Volunteers who drank said they took part in the training for a good cause.

“To help the law enforcement community with drinking and driving,” volunteer Suzanne Barnes said. “It’s a whole lot easier when you’re sober, but when you’ve been drinking it’s a whole lot harder.”

This was the first time the program had come to Leland.

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