All About Passive Alcohol Sensors, Alcohol Wands and Screeners

A promising technology for enhanced impaired driving and DUI enforcement and enforcing "zero tolerance" laws is the passive alcohol sensor or PAS system. These alcohol sensors are designed to sample the air immediately around the suspect for signs of exhaled alcohol. Rather than giving a precise BAC level, passive sensors typically indicate the presence of alcohol, but not the amount. PAS act much like an electronic nose and are sometimes called alcohol sniffers. Whereas a human nose can be deceived by other smells (perfume, gasoline, body odor); the electronic nature of the PAS can be more accurate.

PAS do not require "active" cooperation by the suspect because the device only needs to be within a few inches of the suspect or inside of an open vehicle window to obtain a reading. The results from the PAS lack the precision or accuracy of a law enforcement breathalyzer but work well as another means to detect the presence of alcohol and establish reasonable suspicion to alert the officer to investigate further.

Passive alcohol sensors are a very cost-effective tool since mouthpieces are not required. PAS systems have been made into alcohol breathalyzer flashlights, alcohol wands and wall mounted systems.

The FC5 Hornet is a passive alcohol sensor that can detect the presence of alcohol in ambient air, open drink containers and even spills.

Ambient air is drawn into the sampling cup with an internal pump, eliminating the need for a mouthpiece. Non-invasive and inexpensive to operate.

The FC5 Hornet shown passively testing a person and an open drink container.

Popular uses of alcohol sniffers as they are sometimes called include zero tolerance entry testing at school events and employee screening in safety sensitive workplaces. Alcohol wands are also used to test unconscious subjects, open containers and at roadside sobriety checkpoints, DUI patrols, and traffic stops.