In a first for South Africa, provincial traffic officials in the Western Cape will on Friday pilot a pupil-testing device to identify drivers who are exhausted or on drugs.
Law Impaired Screening, a system which uses a camera, lights and software to screen the rate of a person’s pupil dilation, will be used by traffic officials at roadblocks for a trial run of three weeks.
It forms part of the province’s “Safely Home” campaign which runs for the duration of the festive season.
The device was developed by OculusID, a hardware and software design company.
The device was demonstrated at the campaign’s launch at the N1 toll plaza outside Paarl yesterday.
A driver is asked to stare into a camera lens while a light goes on and the camera records the pupil dilation. The rate of dilation is recorded and a computer program creates a corresponding on-screen graph.
CAN’T HIDE FATIGUE
The system’s main objective is to identify fatigued drivers – pupils dilate at a slower rate if a person is overly tired or sleep deprived.
One of the two devices being piloted will be permanently stationed at roadblocks on the “road of death” between Laingsburg and Aberdeen, via Beaufort West.
The stretch is notorious for tired drivers, with an estimated 106 lives lost due to fatigue-related crashes between 2011 and 2012.
Since then, traffic officials have forced more than 4000 taxi drivers to take a rest stop on that section of road – a measure that provincial traffic chief Kenny Africa says has contributed to lowering the fatigue-related death toll from 106 in one year to just two over the following two years.
The other device will be moved around the province and may pop up randomly at roadblocks.
EXPOSING DRUG USE
Ashley Uys, OculusID’s managing director, said the pupils of drugged drivers were distinctive and the device could be used as “circumstantial evidence” which would give traffic officers reasonable grounds for doing a blood test.
Tik, LSD and ecstasy cause the pupil to dilate to an abnormally large size. Heroin and morphine have the opposite effect. In both instances there is little variation in the size of the pupil when a light source is introduced.
Provincial traffic officials aim to stop over 200 000 cars over the festive season. The aim is to continue the year-on-year decrease in traffic deaths – 256 people died in the 2011/ 12 season, and 236 died the following year.
Africa said there would be a focus on drunk driving, fatigue and encouraging backseat passengers to buckle up. To emphasise this last point, he cited the example of a six-year-old boy who died after being flung through a windshield and landed underneath another car’s engine during the horror crash on Sir Lowry’s Pass on Wednesday. It was established that the boy was not wearing his seatbelt while sitting in the back seat. -Cape Argus