Drunks getting away

2018-09-17 15:45
Campaigner says police are failing to crack down on impaired drivers.

Campaigner says police are failing to crack down on impaired drivers. (Lulekwa Mbadamane )

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The release of the crime statistics has shown a decrease in the number of people stopped for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, leading some to question if law enforcement is “interested” in cracking down on the offence.

While some areas — such as Mountain Rise, Plessislaer, and Alexandra Road — showed an increase in arrests of people driving under the influence, other areas have reported a decrease.

The Hilton area reported six driving under the influence incidents in the 2016/2017 financial year.

This financial year, they also reported six cases.

Prestbury reported eight incidents for the previous financial year, and six for this year and Pietermaritzburg station (Loop Street) went from 166 cases to 143.

In 2008, Pietermaritzburg had reported 532 cases, Hilton reported 22 cases and Prestbury had reported 24.

Other areas such as Alexandra Road went from 641 cases in 2008 to just 73 this financial year.

South Africans Against Drunk Driving (SADD) founder and director Caro Smit said that the organisation is “absolutely ashamed at the apparent lack of interest, action, priority” to driving under the influence by law enforcement.

“SADD hear of many crashes where alcohol abuse is very apparent, and the police have not taken the drivers for testing,” said Smit.

“In the Hilton area alone there are two very popular pubs which young people frequent in large numbers, with many crashes happening, and yet only six incidents of driving under the influence were recorded over a one-year period.

“How is this possible if law enforcement were doing their work properly?”

Smit said police and traffic personnel should be able to arrest at least six people being over the legal limit each Friday and Saturday night.

“Why are frequent road blocks not being done? Surely the police know the enormous emotional pain driving under the influence causes people and the very high cost it causes to the South African economy.

“SADD asks that it becomes mandatory for both drivers to be tested at every crash scene, not just at the police’s discretion.

“A practised drinker very seldom looks ‘drunk’ yet is able to drive, albeit in an impaired way, with extremely high blood alcohol levels.”

A police source who asked not to be named said a year ago, police had more assistance from the Road Traffic Inspectorate for road blocks.

“I would not say the number of drunk drivers has decreased, I just think that no effort is being put into that crime.

“For police, the major crimes are robbery, rape and murder. Drunk driving is not a priority, however, that being said, it is the traffic department’s mandate to hold road blocks and screen for drunk drivers as it is a traffic offence.”

Provincial Road Traffic Inspectorate head Victor Chetty said they are closing ranks and that traffic officers had been issued instructions not to wait to test someone at a roadblock, but to screen for drunk drivers at any time of the day.

“When our officers pull cars, trucks and public transport over for routine checks, they will be screened for alcohol no matter the time of day and when we attend accidents whether minor or major, drivers will be screened provided they are conscious,” he said.

Hilton ward councillor Craig Miller said it was common cause that the national government did not fund local police stations enough.

He said the lack of resources from police combined with the lack of manpower by Msunduzi traffic meant a diminished capacity to hold roadblocks and search vehicles.

He added that the general public also needed to take responsibility when it came to drinking and driving.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  drunk driving

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