Confusion after Drunk-Driver Ruling
MUNICIPALITIES across South Africa have had varied reactions to the landmark judgement about the use of breathalyser testing, but the message remains clear: don't drink and drive.
Metro Police in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town will resume using breathalysers after a judgment in the Western Cape High Court last week where Judge Nathan Erasmus acquitted a driver charged with drunken driving after failing a Drger breathalyser test. Motorist Clifford Hendricks had challenged the effectiveness of the machine and Judge Erasmus found that operators were not sufficiently trained and that proper records weren't kept, and that a person's body temperature, or whether he wore dentures, could lead to a false reading on the Drger.
He gave the breathalyser the nod provided it was "used properly", which authorities say isn't a setback in the fight against drunken driving but rather provides clarity on how the Drger testing process had to be applied in future.
The head of the Ministry of Transport and Public Works in Cape Town, Hector Elliott, said: "The principle of the breath test as a specific device was not contested and has been affirmed as a valid detection procedure. We will need to tighten up procedures and I estimate we will be using the Drger in earnest within a month or two."
The court's ruling certainly doesn't mean that it is open season for drunk drivers, because whatever the validity of breathalyser tests, authorities can still prosecute motorists on the basis of blood alcohol readings.
Joburg Metro Police this week said they will be back on the road with breathalysers but will use them only as screening devices. Blood samples will be taken from drivers suspected of being drunk, which will be used as evidence in court, according to Joburg Metro Police Department spokesperson Wayne Minnaar. …