The re-introduction of the Dräger breathalyser in a pilot phase in the Western Cape is a welcome step that should be applauded by all South African motorists, the Automobile Association (AA) has said.

In June, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) announced that Evidentiary Breath and Alcohol Testing (through the Dräger breathalyser) would be re-introduced from 1 August.

“This is an important development in the fight against drinking and driving; we believe all law abiding motorists will support this move in the knowledge that it will make them safer on the roads,” the Association noted.

The Dräger breathalyser was first introduced in 2011 but was withdrawn after the Cape High Court found there were problems with the way it was used.

According to the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works the judge also found, however, that “… the breathalysers are a reliable means of testing for alcohol in a suspect, and that they should be used as a tool to eradicate the scourge of drunk driving for the better of society”.

The Western Cape Department of Transport says the Dräger device can read how much alcohol is in a person’s breath and that the readings it provides can be produced as evidence to prosecute people accused of drinking and driving.

Following the court’s decision in 2011, the Western Cape government created a task team to work through the problems identified by the court and rectify them. The team comprised of representatives from the National Prosecuting Authority, the National Department of Transport, the South African Bureau of Standards, Western Cape Provincial Traffic Services, and the Gene Louw Traffic College.

“It’s a welcome aspect of the re-introduction of the Dräger breathalyser that the Western Cape authorities continued to seek a solution to the problems highlighted by the judge in 2011. That they are now ready to re-introduce the device is commendable,” said the AA.

According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), approximately 13,000 people died on South African roads last year. The AA said that any measure aimed at curbing this carnage is welcomed and would ensure those who continue to drink and drive are held more accountable for their actions.

“The message is drink OR drive, not both. And, with the many drive home services that are available – including the AA Designated Driver service – drinking and driving should not be an option. Once this re-introduction has proven successful, it should be rolled-out to all provinces as a matter of urgency,” the AA concluded.

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