Drunk drivers get off in PMB

2011-11-09 00:00

ABOUT 120 drivers who had allegedly been drinking and driving are off the hook in Pietermaritzburg following the Western Cape High Court judgment that the Drager machine breathalyser is not sufficiently accurate.

Judge Nathan Erasmus ruled that the breathalyser in its present form was not reliable enough to convict Clifford Joseph Hendricks, which left the National Prosecuting Authority with no evidence in his case.

Local prosecutors have withdrawn cases in anticipation of legal challenges from the attorneys, a source from the NPA said.

However, ahead of the festive season, the Transport Department has warned that despite the alcohol testing machine being ruled inaccurate, drivers who drink will be caught and tested.

South Africans Against Drunk Driving (SADD) has called on the Department of Transport, Community Safety and Liaison to treat drunk driving as a serious matter.

Director of SADD Caro Smit said there are many ways to prosecute drivers who have been drinking besides the Drager machine.

She said there are other tests that stand up in court that can be used to prove driving under the influence of alcohol.

One involves a checklist, the “Alcohol observation check sheet for court” to test driver behaviour and appearance and the other is the blood alcohol limit test to see if drivers were within the legal limit.

“Due to the lack of effective, frequent alcohol testing and poor judicial outcomes, people know that they can usually get away with drink driving. There are not enough random tests done.

“These need to be done so each SA citizen is tested at least four times a year on average and not just at Christmas and Easter.”

She said drunk drivers are treated sympathetically and given legal rights that the victims do not receive.

She suggested that all police officers should carry screening alcohol devices and alcohol checklists and so record the behaviour and actions of drink drivers.

KwaZulu-Natal Transport spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said there are challenges in the drinking and driving matter but they are improving the way they deal with them.

“We are now camping out at night with station commanders and municipal traffic officers, because we want to catch the people who break the law as the statistics show that most of the accidents occur at night. Most people take chances on the roads at night. Some drive without licences,” said Ncalane.

Provincial NPA spokesperson Natasha Ramkisson said she would respond to the story today.

mlondi.radebe@witness.co.za

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