>Metro police have introduced a one-stop shop for drunken drivers aimed at increasing their conviction rate to 90 percent over the festive season.
Motorists who are planning a tipple this weekend will be among the first to experience the new 24 hour, seven days a week Intoximeter Alcohol Evidential Test Centre, a processing centre located at the Johannesburg Metro Police Department’s officers in Village Street in the CBD.
Anyone caught in the swoop – set to take place in Randburg, Soweto and Johannesburg CBD – will be taken to the new “boozer factory” and holding area, the infrastructure alone costing R500 000, a donation from Business Against Crime with the new Drager breathalysers costing R75 000 each.
Metro police chief Chris Ngcobo said this morning at the launch of the new device that his force had caught almost 4 000 drunken drivers over the course of the year but that 95 percent of the cases never get prosecuted successfully, many not even making it to court.
“Drunk drivers just aren’t taking us seriously,” admitted Ngcobo.
In recent roadblocks in Hillbrow, police arrested 48 people for drunken driving in just one hour. Over the same period a roadblock in Moroka, Soweto, yielded 30 drunken driving arrests.
“If you look at (Pretoria High Court) Judge (Nkola) Motata’s case, look how long it took for that to go to court. At least it went to court,” he said.
Judge Motata is currently on trial for drunken driving in the Johannesburg magistrate’s court after smashing through a Hurlingham, Johannesburg, wall with his Jaguar in January last year.
In 90 percent of cases where people are killed in accidents, alcohol is involved.
The new system will start off with 40 mobile breathalysers. If someone is suspected of drunken driving they will be taken to Village Street and required to blow into the Drager machine.
The result, which will give an accurate blood alcohol reading, will be used as evidence in court, which would negate the need for a blood test.
Suspects often refused to cooperate with a blood sample being taken and the results take between 12 and 18 months.
Other than the delay in prosecution, the delay in receiving the test results also means those waiting for an insurance claim to pay out have to wait up to two years.
Other than the Drager, the entire Intoximeter Test Centre will be monitored by CCTV cameras which will also help with circumstancial evidence against a drunk driver. This would also prevent any flouting of the law by metro officers.
The centre will see two dedicated full-time prosecutors who will often be in attendance for the initial arrest and follow the case through to the courts.
Holding areas with open cells will be used to house suspects with additional specially adapted trucks on hand to deal with the massive number of arrests expected over the festive season.
Those convicted of drunken driving will also be “named and shamed” in the newspapers with their blood alcohol level handed over to the media.
Ngcobo said his officers would not abandon some of the tried and trusted methods, like making a suspected drunk driver walk on a white line and holding up a number of fingers for them to identify.
As part of the metro police’s efforts to create awareness of the affects of alcohol, they are staging an office party this weekend where the participants will have their blood alcohol tested every hour.