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KwaZulu-Natal - Early morning cyclists have had a guardian angel watching over them. Their special cycling lane on Masabala Yengwa (NMR) Avenue was empty when an extremely drunk driver, without a driver’s licence, allegedly hurtled down it in the wrong direction before rolling the unlicensed car he was driving.
Gareth Joshua, from Wentworth, aged 30 according to police but 18 according to a source close to him, allegedly lost control of the Dodge Calibre near Athlone Bridge. His blood-alcohol level was allegedly more than five times the legal limit.
Police said that he appeared in Durban Magistrate’s Court on Friday. It could not be confirmed whether he was granted bail. However, the source said he had been asking around for R3 000 bail but it could not established whether he was still in custody.
Joshua’s court appearance took place as Lead SA’s Yusuf Abramjee repeated the call for the national government to name and shame convicted drunk drivers at a conference of the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders, in Cape Town.
Metro police arrested Joshua on Thursday having spotted him at around 4.45am near Kings Park.
According to metro police spokesman Senior Superintendent Eugene Msomi: “When the policemen tried to stop him, he raced away northwards – still on the wrong side of the road. We can be thankful that there were no cyclists there at this time.”
Msomi said that Joshua resisted arrest and put up a brief struggle. He was taken to the Alco Testing Centre, where he submitted to a breathalyser test.
“They (the officers) noticed he was heavily under the influence, he had no driver’s licence, nor was his vehicle licensed,” said Msomi.
He said Joshua’s reading was 1.30 mg per 1000ml of breath. The maximum legal limit is 0.24.
Now Joshua, who is believed to be employed at a south Durban vehicle workshop, faces a string of charges: driving under the influence, driving over the legal limit of alcohol in his blood system, reckless and/or negligent driving, driving in the face of oncoming traffic, resisting arrest, driving a motor vehicle with no driver’s licence, and driving an unlicensed vehicle.
KZN Cycling Association chairman Greg Stedman welcomed the arrest. “However, while we have separate cycling lanes, we need more policing, patrolling, and prosecution of people who break the laws and endanger others,” he said.
Stedman called for authorities to make an example of offenders to send a message to people who thought they could break law.
Athlone Bridge, over the Mngeni River, is also the site of the horrific 2011 accident in which allegedly drunk lawyer Koobashan Naicker, in a hit-and-run accident, killed Gillian Bell, her eight-year-old son Connor, and dance teacher Carmen Hunter. The second anniversary of their deaths is less than two weeks away.
Joshua’s arrest comes nine weeks after the road death of mountain biking champion Burry Stander and in the run-up to a law allowing KwaZulu-Natal liquor outlets to trade on Sundays, much to the dismay of organisations involved in road safety. Since the Stander tragedy, cyclists have rallied to lobby for a law to allow cyclists a 1.5m clearance on roads.
Carol du Toit, director of the SA National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence’s Durban centres, said the World Health Organisation had identified the reduction of hours during which alcohol may be sold as a priority intervention area to reduce alcohol-related crime.
Msomi said that law enforcement would be beefed up on Sundays to curb the number of drunk drivers. “We already have an alcohol unit that works on Saturdays, so we’ll increase members in that unit to monitor several hot spots around Durban,” he said.
Adding a voice from the paramedic fraternity, Gareth Jamieson, of Rescue Care, said that the extended liquor trading hours could cause the high accident rate of Fridays and Saturdays to spill over into Sundays.
Charlotte Sullivan, of the South Africans Against Drunk Driving, said roving road blocks were needed every day of the week to stop people drinking and driving.
“We are in a crisis, with 65 percent of crashes occurring due to alcohol, so we need major interventions,” she said, adding that the organisation was “horrified” at the Sunday liquor retail law. At the Nicro conference, Abramjee went on to say that the naming and shaming pilot project in the Western Cape was “very effective and serving as a deterrent”.
Yasir Ahmed, chief director for transport regulation in the provincial government, told the conference: “Naming and shaming is most certainly working.” He said many motorists were “afraid of having their names published in newspapers where family, friends and colleagues will learn about their conviction.”
Independent on Saturday