War declared on drunken driving
War has been declared on anyone driving drunk in Gauteng.
In the last 48 hours, 86 drivers were arrested for being over the alcohol limit in Joburg, as against the 108 arrested over the entire Christmas and New Year. On Fridaynight, Ekurhuleni metro police added another 16 drivers in their region.
In total, 116 people have been arrested since Monday across the country.
The Joburg metro police department is out in full force this weekend at no fewer than 20 major roadblocks in and around the city until Monday night. The priority will be cracking down on drunk drivers, along with the newly established National Traffic Intervention Unit.
Ashref Ismail, senior manager of enforcement co-ordination at the Road Traffic Management Co-operation, said alcohol was a major contributor to almost half of all vehicle accidents.
“It is a big challenge for us and we have made it a priority for all law enforcement in the country to look out for drunk drivers this Easter weekend.”
More than 12 000 drunk drivers were arrested between October last year and March across the country.
A key weapon in the war against drunk driving is to clear up the legal loopholes regarding the controversial Drager breathalyser to allow its results to be used as irrefutable evidence in court.
The window for public comment closed last Friday, clearing the way for Parliament to pass the new amendment.
Alta Swanepoel, independent traffic and transport consultant, said the the loopholes led to arguments in court on technicalities on the use of the breath testing equipment as court evidence.
“This is just to make it easier to prove drunk driving cases in court,” she said.
“Although this regulation has been there for a while, when it becomes law, we are going to see a lot more people becoming careful when it comes to drinking and driving on our roads. Drager was certified under the old 1998 specifications which have since changed,” she explained.
“Although the specifications are the same, some magistrates accepted that it did not comply with the letter of the law when cases were brought before them.”
Because of this, Swanepoel said the Western Cape had actually created a test in the High Court with the case of Clifford Joseph Hendricks, of Kewtown.
The case, set down to be heard by Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe on May 23, could have huge ramifications for other cases in which the controversial Drager breathalyser device was used.
Hendricks was arrested in January last year after the Drager device recorded his breath alcohol level at 0.95mg per 1 000ml of breath. The legal limit is 0.24mg per 1 000ml.
Should the court find the machines reliable, prosecutors in other cases will not have to prove the reliability of the machine, and will only have to show that the Drager used was calibrated within the stipulated period. When the new regulations come into place, authorities no longer need to prove that a driver was drunk.
“They simply have to prove that a driver was over the prescribed alcohol limit like in the case of speed prosecution,” she said. “It is no longer about being (so) drunk that you cannot stand or that a person’s speech was slurred.”
The Automobile Association’s Gary Ronald said: “We have to stop the scourge of drunk driving on our roads. The more available the alcohol-testing equipment is the better it will be.”
Howard Dembovsky, chairman of Justice Project SA – a motorists lobby group, said: “we welcome the idea of trying to make justice swift for drunk drivers.”
Dembovsky said magistrates had the discretion to suspend or cancel a motorist’s licence if found guilty of drunk driving. Convicted drunk drivers can be jailed or fined a maximum of R25 000. - Saturday Star