Controversial Dräger breathalyser considered as road carnage soars

SEPTEMBER 11, 2015

The controversial Dräger breathalyser, a breath testing device that supposedly accurately measures the alcohol in your breath, could be reintroduced, among other measures, as government tries to deal with drunken driving and the state of road safety in South Africa. 

Law enforcement agents in many provinces across the country suspended Dräger breathalyser tests after a High Court ruling in 2011 challenged its validity and accuracy.

The new measures were announced following the release of the State of Safety Report from April to August 2015 on Friday. The report was presented to Transport Minister, Dipuo Peters, during the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), in Boksburg, on Friday.

The report painted a grim picture of bad behaviour and negative attitudes displayed by road users. It identified alcohol abuse, dangerous overtaking, vehicle fitness as well as pedestrian negligence as five major contributory factors to crashes over the past five months.

The report showed that during the five month period, there were 10.3 million registered vehicles in the country with the majority of them in Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. However, the majority of crashes took place in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

Between April and August, the country witnessed 4 528 crashes resulting in 5 433 fatalities. A high number of fatalities occurred in the months of May and August, as compared to other months.

Spelling out the measures during a media briefing, Minister Peters said despite numerous legal challenges on the utilisation of the dragger that leads to the use of it as illegal, the department has finally satisfied the legal requirements of the use of it.

“We will religiously ensure that the introduction and reinforcement of the dragger is rolled out throughout the country,” Minister Peters announced.

Key to the requirements include that authorities have to procure the equipment and traffic officers to be trained on the operation of the equipment.

“The NPA under the guidance from Adv Van der Vijver is in the process of developing guidelines to be used by prosecutions,” the Minister said, adding that the reintroduction of the dragger will be managed with extreme caution to avoid unsuccessful prosecutions.

In a bid to improve safety the AGM has also decided that there should be heightened, integrated and targeted law enforcement operation in the top six corridors, which were identified as routes with the highest traffic volumes.

The top six corridors include N1 between Pretoria – Polokwane and Beitbridge, N2 between Somerset West and Cape Town, N3 between Johannesburg and Cape Town, N4 between Pretoria, Nelspruit and Lebombo, N1 between Mangaung and Cape Town as well as the R61 between Aberdeen and Beaufort West.

Other measures include periodic, integrated operations focussed on checking the roadworthiness of heavy vehicles, buses, taxis and scholar transport with fines of R50 000 imposed on impounded heavy vehicles and R15 000 for light vehicles.

“The laws authorising private vehicle testing centres should be reviewed with a view to clamping down on non-compliant private centres. There should be a dedicated attention to stray animals and interventions on fencing, provision of animal reflective belts and animal identification tags.

“There should be a review of regulation on the utilisation of blue lights by private vehicles. Mobile roadworthiness testing equipment should be deployed in all provinces and in rural areas to reduce risky un-roadworthy vehicles on the roads,” Minister Peters said.

The Minister also thanked the Department of Health for its commitment to deploy health professionals, when the department conducts road blocks to take blood samples on the spot.

“The measures must assist us to realise the goals of the United Global Action on Road Safety to reduce fatalities by 50% in 2020.”

– additional reporting