Drivers may face random testing

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 August, 2008, 12:00am

The days of downing a couple of quick drinks 'for the road' could be numbered if new random breath-testing laws are strictly enforced.

Under amendments to the Road Traffic Ordinance passed in June, police can compel road users to take a breath test whether or not there is a reasonable suspicion that they have been drinking. And first-time offenders, unless they have compelling reasons, will be automatically disqualified from driving for at least three months.

Repeat, or serious, offenders will face two-year disqualifications and up to three years in jail.

This means Hong Kong drivers may soon be encountering roadblocks where drivers are asked to submit to breath tests on an entirely arbitrary basis.

'We are now in the process of identifying a suitable pre-screening device for conducting random breath tests,' a police spokesman said. Those machines will be calibrated to indicate that someone has been drinking if there is more than 20 micrograms of alcohol per 100ml of their blood - 10 per cent below the current legal limit.

Almost a quarter of drink-driving-related accidents in Hong Kong result in death or serious injury - versus 15.8 per cent for all accidents - Legislative Council papers said.

In the Australian state of New South Wales, the limit of 50 milligrams per 100ml of blood has been strictly enforced since random breath testing began in 1982. It resulted in an immediate 22 per cent drop in the number of fatal crashes, and a 36 per cent fall in the average number of alcohol-related accidents.