Tech and evidence centres launched to keep road users safe

Metro police officers put their  machines to the test.
Metro police officers put their machines to the test.

Thanks to new technology financed by SA Breweries (SAB) and other companies, drunk drivers could end up behind bars much faster.

SAB and local authorities have built four alcohol evidence centres (AECs), valued at R1 million each, and fitted them out with new breathalyser technology.

According to Pamela Nkuna from SAB and AB InBev Africa, this is meant to help reduce the incidence of drunk driving.

The AECs are situated in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, as well as in Soweto, Marlboro and Loveday in Johannesburg.

Nkuna said 17 other places had also been identified where AECs would be established within the next few years.

Drivers who test over the alcohol consumption limit at a roadblock will be brought to an AEC.

According to Superintendent Mike Boloto of the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department, nurses at the centre can draw blood. However, they try to avoid doing so because of the huge backlog in testing at the forensics laboratory in Pretoria.

The results of the Evidentiary Breath Alcohol Testing (Ebat) machines, which measure blood alcohol levels at the AECs, are accepted by criminal courts, said Nkuna.

In addition, results are immediately available.

Boloto said this machine tests air from the stomach, which is why someone who has alcohol in their mouth as a result of cough syrup, for example, will not test positive.

According to Boloto, between 500 and 700 people are arrested every week for drunk driving.

People who are found to be over the limit at roadblocks will be taken to an AEC. Their car will be driven by a metro police officer.

Men and women will be kept apart at the AEC waiting rooms.

In addition to the test process being conducted, all sound will be recorded. So, if a motorist swears at officials, for example, the recordings can later be used against them in court.

If a person tests positive at an AEC, they will be taken to a police station.

The last of the Ebat machine operators were trained this week. Altogether, 27 will work at the Marlboro centre.

In addition, four mobile bus units have been equipped with Ebat machines, which can be deployed on the roads.

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