The role of passive alcohol sensors in detecting alcohol-impaired drivers at sobriety checkpoints

Ferguson, Susan A. / Wells, JoAnn K. / Lund, Adrian K.
Alcohol, Drugs, and Driving

Sobriety checkpoints are a deterrent to alcohol-impaired driving if they are conducted often. For a sobriety checkpoint to be an effective deterrent, though, the police officers must be reasonably competent in identifying the alcohol-impaired drivers passing through it. Officers have limited time and few cues on which to make judgments about impairment. This study examines the use of passive alcohol sensors by police officers as a screening device to provide an objective indication of alcohol in the driver's breath. Police officers using standard checkpoint procedures identified 26 percent of drivers with blood alcohol concentrations between 0.05 percent and <0.10 percent and 55 percent of drivers with blood alcohol concentrations of 0.10 percent or higher. Officers using the passive alcohol sensors had detection rates of 39 percent and 71 percent, respectively.

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