Both the Walk and Turn (W&T) and One Leg Stand (OLS) tests are considered, “divided attention” tests. The officer is determining how well a subject can multitask (mentally focus on multiple tasks or ideas at once). We will see there are two stages: an instruction stage and a performance stage. For the purposes of today’s article, we will just discuss the OLS test.

One Leg Stand (OLS)

Test Conditions

The OLS Test requires a reasonably dry, hard, level, and non slippery surface in relatively safe conditions. Standardizing this test for every type of road condition is unrealistic. Therefore, if road conditions are not ideal, officers are trained to:

  1.  Ask subject to perform the test elsewhere; or
  2.  Only administer HGN

The original research studies of this test suggest that individuals over 65 years of age; people with back, leg or inner ear problems; or people who are overweight by 50 or more pounds may have difficulty performing this test. In addition, the original studies suggest that individuals wearing heels more than 2 inches high should be given the opportunity to remove their shoes.

Test Procedures

The test is initiated by the officer giving the following instructions, accompanied by demonstrations:

  1. “Please stand with your feet together and arms down at the sides, like this.” Officer demonstrates placement of feet and arms.
  2. “Do not start to perform the test until I tell you to do so.”
  3. “Do you understand the instructions so far?” Officer trained to receive some affirmative response before continuing.
  4. “When I tell you to start, raise either leg with the foot approximately six inches off the ground, keeping your foot parallel to the ground.” Officer demonstrates the position.
  5. “Keep both legs straight and your arms at your side.”
  6. “While holding that position, count out loud in the following manner: ‘one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three,’ and so on until told to stop.” Officer demonstrates counting while maintaining position.
  7. “Keep your arms at your sides at all times and keep watching your raised foot, do you understand?” Officer trained to ensure subject indicates understanding and answer any of subject’s questions regarding the test.
  8. “Go ahead and perform the test.”

The officer is trained to always time the thirty seconds in which they evaluate the test. The test should be discontinued after 30 seconds. If the subject places his or her foot down, the officer is trained to instruct the subject to pick foot up again and continue counting from where the subject’s foot touched the ground.

Test Interpretation

There are a maximum number of four clues on this test.
Officers are trained that if the subject shows two or more clues or fails to
complete the test, there is a probability of impairment.

Subject sways while balancing. This clue refers to side to side or back and forth motion while the subject maintains the One Leg Stand position. Swaying means a distinct, noticeable side to side or front to back movement of the elevated foot or of the subject’s body. Slight tremors of the foot or body should not be interpreted as swaying.

Uses arms to balance. This clue is recorded if the subject moves his/her arms 6 or more inches from the side of the body in order to keep balance.

Hopping. This clue is recorded if the subject is able to keep foot off the ground, but resorts to hopping to maintain balance.

Puts foot down. This clue refers to when the subject is unable to maintain the OLS position by placing the raised foot down one or more times during the thirty second count.

It is possible for the officer to observe two clues simultaneously. If a subject is unable to perform the test, the officer is trained to record observed clues and document the reason for not completing the test.  

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