If you’re pulled over for a traffic violation and the officer suspects you may be impaired, you’ll probably be asked to perform the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. The HGN is one of the most popular “field sobriety tests” in use.
Relatively simple, it requires an officer to hold a penlight or another small object about a foot from your eyes and move it from side to side while you follow the object with only your eyes. If your eyes jerk or bounce around unusually, you fail the test.
You need to remember that you are under no legal obligation to comply. Unlike chemical breath tests, there’s no penalty for refusing the test. Failing the test, however, can be a disaster, and there’s probably no way you’ll pass it.
Isn’t the HGN supposed to be objective?
Supposedly, the HGN is a standardized test that is 77% reliable when performed by a trained officer – but that’s only under the most ideal of conditions. The side of the road, where you’re exposed to weather, passing vehicles and the stress of the whale situation, is hardly ideal.
In addition, you can fail the test because:
- The officer is inexperienced at the test.
- You have a migraine headache.
- You have the flu or a cold.
- You have an inner ear issue.
- You’re on medication that causes your eyes to have trouble focusing.
- You’ve spent a lot of time on a computer recently.
- You’re overly tired.
Don’t put your future at risk by participating in a test that’s largely a fishing expedition for evidence that you’re driving while impaired. If you are charged, make sure that you get experienced assistance.