Police to crack down on drink-drivers

Police officers want to use breathalysers that will allow them to finalise readings on the spot at roadside, giving drivers no time to sober up

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2012, 2:51am

Police may take their most accurate breathalysers to the roadside so that officers can finalise the alcohol readings of suspected offenders on the spot.

The idea came up for consideration because of a rising number of drivers who, initially over the limit when measured at the roadside, escaped prosecution after their breath-alcohol measurements fell to within the legal limit after being retaken at a police station.

The force had the idea of bringing the evidential breath test machines out of police stations and to the roadside, but they need time to ensure the devices can be tested to ensure they are not affected by atmospheric changes like temperature and humidity.

Chief Superintendent Steve Verralls of the traffic branch said breath tests were conducted as soon as possible but some drivers post readings marginally over the legal limit of 22 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath and recover by the time they are retested at a police station. The police are also working on other methods to stop drink-drivers.

"[There are] hardcore drivers who become complacent and would still drink and drive," Verralls said. "We are working on a random breath-testing regime to tackle these drivers and take them off the road."

Police figures showed 196 people were arrested for accidents related to drink-driving in the first 10 months of this year; a 14 per cent rise year-on-year.

Of those detained, 39 were "tier 1" offenders with the least serious alcohol readings - 22 to 35mcg/100ml, roughly equal to two cans of beer - which was an increase of 56 per cent.

Drink-driving suspects who fail a breathalyser test at the scene are taken to police stations for a more accurate test that can be used in court as evidence.

However, 27 people were released - mostly the "tier 1" offenders - after subsequent testing, a rise from 20 year-on-year.

Since July, police have been using 280 new German-made hand-held breathalysers that combine the functions of two current breathalysers - one determines if a person passes the legal limit and the other shows the actual reading.

The city saw 116 casualties in drink-driving-related accidents in the first 10 months this year, an increase from 97 year-on-year.

Meanwhile, 46 people were arrested for driving under the influence of drugs between January and October, compared with 51 in the whole of last year.

Thirty-five were arrested, mostly ketamine users, after a law was enacted on March 15 that gave police officers the power to compel suspected offenders to undergo impairment tests and give urine or blood samples.

Police are working with the Hospital Authority and government laboratories to decide between several prototypes of oral drug detection tests too.