File picture: Henk Kruger / Cape Argus.
File picture: Henk Kruger / Cape Argus.

Dräger breathalyser 'coming back soon'

By Siyabonga Kalipa Time of article published Apr 19, 2016

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Cape Town - The controversial Dräger breathalyser test is set to make a comeback after the traffic department decided to stop using it in its breath alcohol tests five years ago.

In 2011, Western Cape High Court Judge Nathan Erasmus ruled that the results obtained using the Dräger Alcotest 7110 Mark III could not be used as evidence because it had not been properly calibrated and the user manual had not been properly followed.

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

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Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith said the city had now complied with a range of requirements set out by the court before the Dräger breathalyser could be used again.

Smith said the breathalyser return was imminent and that it would reduce backlogs at national health laboratories and allow for the improved enforcement of drunk driving.

The breathalyser tests will be reinstated at the Shadow Centre in Athlone and as a mobile unit as part of the K78 Roadblock Unit.

“Will be able to do tests right there on the side of road,” said Smith.

A necessary convenience

Provincial traffic chief Kenny Africa said the Dräger breathalyser would assist officers because the drawing of blood took too much of a traffic officer’s time.

And it then took about 12 months before the case was heard in court.

“This means you can get the readings on the spot, arrest a person on the spot and they appear in court sooner,” said Africa.

In June 2011, all drunk driving cases where Dräger readings were used as evidence were provisionally withdrawn by the National Prosecuting Authority.

This followed a landmark case a month earlier in which Clifford Hendricks pleaded not guilty to a charge of drunk driving. The Dräger recorded his blood alcohol at 0.95mg per 100ml – four times over the legal limit.

However, his lawyer questioned the correct use of the unit.

Hendricks was acquitted of the charge and, subsequently, the use of the Dräger was scrapped.

Cape Argus

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