Cape Town - It’s no coincidence that the city’s new Random Breath Testing vehicle, with onboard evidentiary breath analyser equipment, is making its operational debut on a payday weekend.
Suspected cases of drunk driving often spike over a weekend that falls close to the end of the month, and this mobile test centre, based on a midi bus, is intended to simplify and speed up the handling of these cases, right there at the roadblock, without having to draw blood samples or take the suspect to the Western Cape Shadow Centre in Athlone to verify their blood alcohol level.
Up till now, if a traffic officer pulled a driver over at a roadblock and suspected that he or she was driving drunk, the suspect would be arrested and asked to blow into a handheld breathalyser.
But even if the breathalyser gives a positive reading, that’s not admissible in court, so the suspect would have be taken to the nearest police station to register a case docket for drinking and driving - and then to the Shadow Centre to provide an evidentiary breath sample on the more sophisticated breathalyser there, which is admissible as evidence in court.
And if the suspect can’t or won’t provide a breath sample then he has to be taken to a medical facility for a blood sample to be drawn by a qualified prescribed person such as a registered nurse, district surgeon or doctor - unless there’s a nurse on duty at the roadblock, which is not always possible.
Now all of that will be done onboard, immediately, using specialised equipment that provides the necessary evidence for a drunk driving case - which will not only cut down the time spent processing drunk driving suspects, but will also speed up court proceedings.
Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said: “The delay associated with blood samples and its impact on prosecutions is a longstanding issue and a great source of frustration.
“Very often, cases are abandoned because the blood samples take so long to process. The evidentiary breath analyser provides prosecutable results on the spot, which fast-tracks completion of the docket, getting the case to court and ensuring a prosecution - and now we have it in a roving vehicle that can be deployed at a roadblock.”
Blood samples would continue to be used, he said, particularly in cases where a suspect is unable to provide a breath sample due to injury as a result of a car crash.
“Many people drink and drive because they believe there are no real consequences,” Smith said. “I advise them to think carefully about that in future, because now those consequences could be coming home to roost sooner than they expect.”