Traffic police to use old-school balance test instead of breathalysers to find drunk drivers

Motorists travelling during the festive season can expect traffic officers to use old-fashioned tests to identify drunk drivers – which can include that a driver walk along road lines or stand on one leg for a few seconds to check for any signs of intoxication.

This is according to a report from the Sunday Times, which quoted transport officials in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape, where new cases of COVID-19 have increased in recent weeks.

These provinces have suspended the use of breathalysers to measure intoxication levels as a means to curb the spread of the virus.

Cape Town’s head of safety and security Richard Bosman told the Sunday Times that it has been a challenge for the city’s traffic officers to identify drunk drivers.

“Unfortunately, there is no alternative that matches the speed and efficacy of the mobile screening devices and the evidentiary breath analyser equipment, so staff members have reverted to the old methods until further notice,” Bosman said.

He added that although these new methods are more time-consuming and inconvenient, the officers have made a significant number of arrests.

Officers could also film videos of suspected drunk drivers in order to collect evidence for court cases.

Breathalysers are still being used in Gauteng, however, according to the province’s traffic police spokesperson Sello Maremane.

“All breathalysers are wiped before usage. The mouthpieces that motorists use for blowing are always sealed and only opened by motorists themselves to ensure that they pose no risk to their health and safety,” Maremane told the Sunday Times.

COVID-19 hotspots

The extraordinary measures in the Western and Eastern Cape come amid the expected flood of South Africans to prime holiday spots along the coast over December.

President Cyril Ramaphosa recently announced intensified lockdown level 1 regulations for one such destination – Nelson Mandela Bay.

“There is now clear evidence of a resurgence of infections in parts of our country, which if not confronted decisively and directly, could lead to great suffering and death,” Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation.

“We have seen many countries around the world experience a resurgence of the coronavirus, some with second waves even worse than their initial peak,” Ramaphosa said.

He noted other regions where there is a risk of a COVID-19 resurgence, too: the Sarah Baartman district in the Eastern Cape, and the Garden Route District in the Western Cape.

“In line with our differentiated approach to the management of the pandemic, we will therefore implement additional measures in those areas identified as coronavirus hotspots,” he said.

“At alert level 1, we have the measures we need to control the virus – all the measures are in place – but the main problem is that there are parts of the country where people are not complying with the restrictions,” Ramaphosa said.

As part of the declaration of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality as a hotspot, the following restrictions will apply in the region:

  • The hours of the curfew are from 22:00 until 04:00. No person may be outside their place of residence except for emergencies and essential workers permitted to work during these hours.
  • The sale of alcohol from retail outlets is only allowed from 10:00 until 18:00 from Monday to Thursday.
  • Alcohol consumption in public places is strictly forbidden. Ramaphosa said this is necessary to prevent large social gatherings in places such as beaches and parks.
  • Gatherings may not be attended by more than 100 people for indoor events and 250 for outdoor venues. At all times, the number of people at a gathering may not exceed 50% of the carrying capacity of the venue.
  • All post-funeral gatherings are prohibited.

Now read: New deadline for driver’s licence renewals in South Africa

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Traffic police to use old-school balance test instead of breathalysers to find drunk drivers