Cape MEC plans roadside blood tests

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IOL mot pic jul17 Roadside Blood Test Reuter Nurses will be standing by at roadblocks to draw samples for blood-alcohol testing if Western Cape transport MEC Robin Carlisle gets his way.

Drivers suspected of being drunk will have their blood tested at roadblocks if the police agrees to a request from the Western Cape’s provincial transport department to issue case numbers on the spot.

This is part of the department’s latest plan to combat drunken driving.

A driver’s blood cannot be tested unless a case of drunken driving has been opened and a case number has been issued by the SAPS, whose members are present at some roadblocks run by provincial authorities.

At present, cases are not being opened on the scene. Motorists are taken to a police station for a case to be opened.

Transport MEC Robin Carlisle said his department was negotiating with police to allow case numbers to be issued at the scene.

Metro Police were not allowed to issue case numbers.

With the new plan nurses would be stationed at roadblocks to do the blood tests.

“We are trying to get the case number issued at the roadblock,” Carlisle said, “because every time we test somebody and they are over the legal limit, we have to take them to the police station to find a nurse to do the test and a policeman to issue a case number.

“We want to be able to do this at the roadblock so that we don’t have officials leaving the scene.”

Carlisle said his office had written to Western Cape police commissioner Arno Lamoer. SAPS legal services were considering the request from Carlisle’s office to issue case numbers at roadblocks.

Carlisle said: “They think this can be done but they are considering it so we are waiting for them. The sooner we have an answer, the better for us.”

The plan would mean all staff would be able to remain at the roadblock at all times.

“No one would have to leave the scene. The more people they find are over the limit, the more officials leave the scene and spend an hour at the police station. If police are prepared to assist us, we can handle far more people at the roadblock.”

Another benefit would be that roadblocks could be set up anywhere on the province’s roads and not necessarily near a hospital or police station.

Carlisle said the waiting period for blood test results was down to four months after having been as long as two years at one stage.

He said his department had been told by the police’s forensic laboratory services that they were hoping to get the waiting period down to two months by 2013.

Authorities had to go back to using blood tests last year after the effectiveness of the Dräger breathalyser test was successfully challenged in the Western Cape High Court.

The device has been used in South Africa since 1998 but its reliability was challenged when motorist Clifford Hendricks from Kewtown was acquitted of drunk driving after he claimed the apparatus did not accurately assess the amount of alcohol a driver had consumed.

When Hendricks was arrested in 2010, a blood test was not done as Athlone police did not have the correct equipment.

Judge Nathan Erasmus ruled the controversial Dräger device out as evidence as he found the device was not properly calibrated and the user manual had not been followed accurately.

He said the device could and should be modified to meet the court standard.

A team including national and provincial traffic officials and members of the National Prosecuting Authority was set up to follow this up.

Carlisle said the team was still attending to matters raised in the judgment and that the Dräger should be ready for use early next year. - Cape Times

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