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Role of Passive Alcohol Sensors in Detecting Alcohol- Impaired Drivers at Sobriety Checkpoints

NCJ Number
Alcohol, Drugs and Driving Volume: 11 Issue: 1 Dated: (January-March 1995) Pages: 23-30
S A Ferguson; J K Wells; A K Lund
Date Published
8 pages
The effectiveness of passive alcohol sensors in identifying alcohol-impaired drivers was examined in a study conducted in Fairfax County (Va.) in 1993.
The research was prompted by awareness that police officers at sobriety checkpoint often have little time and few cues on which to make judgments about impairment. The research took place at six sobriety checkpoints during July, August, and September 1993. Police officers used standard procedures or passive alcohol sensors as a screening device to provide an objective indication of alcohol in the drivers' breath. A total of 5,192 drivers were interviewed during the course of the study. About half were interviewed by police officers using the hand-held sensors; about half by officers not using the sensor. Results revealed that police officers using standard checkpoint procedures identified 26 percent of drivers with blood alcohol concentrations from 0.05 percent to just under 0.10 percent and 55 percent of drivers with blood alcohol concentrations of 0.10 percent or higher. In contrast, when police officers used the passive alcohol sensors, these detection rates increased to 39 percent and 71 percent, respectively. Tables and 9 references (Author abstract modified)