Dräger back to bust drunk drivers

Drunk drivers will once again face the prospect of being locked up on the strength of a breathalyser test, after it was reintroduced at the beginning of the month.

The Dräger breathalyser was withdrawn following the 2011 court case in which the judge found there were problems in the way the device was used. It led to the acquittal of the accused who had been charged with driving over the legal limit of 0.24mg per 1 000ml. Since then, traffic authorities had to rely on more time-consuming blood alcohol testing to prosecute drunk drivers.

Then, in June, the Department of Transport and Public Works said a task team had worked through the problems identified in court.

“Drivers who continue to risk their lives and the lives of other citizens heedlessly, who destroy taxpayer-funded infrastructure, and who take policing resources away from attending to other crimes are reminded that, unlike blood alcohol testing, EBAT (evidentiary breath alcohol testing) results are immediate,” it said.

It is called “evidentiary” because the breathalyser reading of how much alcohol there is in a person’s breath can be used as evidence in court to prosecute offenders. But for the test to be admissible, the breathalyser, those who operate it and the testing conditions must all meet strict legal req-uirements. Western Cape provincial traffic officers had received the necessary training at the Gene Louw Traffic College, the department said.

“In the previous system, because of the delays in obtaining the results of blood tests, such persons will then face a long period of legal uncertainty while the blood test is being processed.

“By contrast, because the results of an EBAT test are instant, the case can be dealt with swiftly and efficiently.”