The Mercury

Alcohol Evidence Centre yields results

- LATOYA NEWMAN latoya.newman@inl.co.za

AN ALCOHOL Evidence Centre (AEC) pilot project based in Pietermari­tzburg – a joint partnershi­p between the KwaZulu-Natal Road Traffic Inspectora­te (RTI) and South African Breweries (SAB) – has proved to yield results since its launch four months ago.

At a roadblock, motorists were screened with a hand-held breathalys­er (screening device), and if the officer at the scene suspected they were above the legal limit or if the screening device indicated this, the driver was taken to the AEC.

“Previously, the officer would have to take the offender to a registered nurse at a local police station, hospital or mobile centre on the road to draw blood. With drawing blood, it takes approximat­ely three to five years to get a successful prosecutio­n for driving under the influence,” said Pamela Narayadu Nkuna, corporate social responsibi­lity manager at SAB.

With the Evidentiar­y Breath Alcohol Testing (EBAT) used at the centre, the motorist blows into the machine, which immediatel­y prints out alcohol level results that are acceptable in court.

This cuts down on the process of having to draw blood and wait for laboratory results which in the past delayed prosecutio­n for drunk- driving offences.

“In KZN, if you are over the limit the officer will take you to the SAPS to be arrested,” she said.

The director of the KZN RTI, Victor Chetty, said: “As government, we believe in partnershi­ps like these with SAB. This project in Pietermari­tzburg is the first pilot in SA and we’ll use this as a blueprint for other projects in the country.”

He said SAB’s investment in the pilot centre and the 16 others planned for South Africa in the future was indicative of their commitment to societal responsibi­lity.

“In KZN we say road safety is our collective responsibi­lity, starting from the road user, the pedestrian or the driver, to businesses, society and NGOs. That in itself shows their commitment. As government, we’re open to public-private partnershi­ps because for us the fundamenta­l thing is having safer roads. But at the same time, we need compliant citizenry,” Chetty said.

SAB and government hope to roll out four other centres – like the pilot project in Pietermari­tzburg – in Durban, Johannesbu­rg, Soweto and Limpopo by the end of year.

Since the evidence centre pilot project relaunched in March this year – in conjunctio­n with advice from the Directorat­e of Public Prosecutio­ns, so that it was fully compliant according to the law – the test area in which the centre is based has seen:

A total of 446 arrests for drunken driving since March 1.

More than 372 of those were the result of evidence retrieved from the EBAT machine.

A total of 70 cases were successful­ly prosecuted in court using evidence from the centre.

 ?? | LATOYA NEWMAN ?? A SUSPECTED drunk driver is taken to the Alcohol Evidence Centre in Pietermari­tzburg shortly after being apprehende­d at a roadblock at the weekend. The pilot project centre is pegged as the new hope for curbing drinking and driving offences, and related deaths on the roads.
| LATOYA NEWMAN A SUSPECTED drunk driver is taken to the Alcohol Evidence Centre in Pietermari­tzburg shortly after being apprehende­d at a roadblock at the weekend. The pilot project centre is pegged as the new hope for curbing drinking and driving offences, and related deaths on the roads.

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