Breathalyser readings to be used in court – Minister
Publish date: 07 January 2019
Issue Number: 805
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: South Africa
In a bid to curb the sort of carnage on the roads which has blighted the holiday season, Transport Minister Blade Nzimande says breathalyser readings taken on the spot are soon be used in evidence against drunk drivers, according to a TimesLIVE report. Most holiday incidents were caused by excessive speeding, reckless and negligent driving and blatant disregard of road signs. However, a report on the IoL site quotes Nzimande as saying new technological innovations of the fourth industrial revolution should be used by traffic officers so that blood tests could be conducted on the spot, and the instant results accepted and used in court. He reportedly said an urgent meeting would be held with the Department of Justice and the NPA to ensure that serious cases involving violation of traffic law were prosecuted expeditiously. The TimesLIVE report notes Nzimande pointed out drinking and driving incidents had increased, as had incidents involving fatigued drivers. Nzimande also proposed taxi operators should consider using two drivers per vehicle to reduce crashes caused by fatigue. He said breathalyser readings taken on the spot would be used in evidence against drunk drivers in court. ‘We will not wait for blood tests. This is exploited by the rich who use powerful lawyers to get out of jail.’ Nzimande had asked for the urgent meeting with the NPA and department to ensure serious cases involving violations of traffic law were prosecuted expeditiously to send a strong message to road users. He also proposed an engagement with the Department of Trade & Industry to review the trading hours of taverns and restaurants that sell liquor. ‘We believe the 2am cut-off time encourages binge drinking and increases the risk of road traffic crashes in the early hours of the morning,’ he is quoted as saying.
The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) has hinted at the re-testing of motorists whenever drivers’ licence renewals are due. It also wants to ban young drivers from undertaking trips of more than 150km in the first year of obtaining a driver’s licence. Other proposals, according to the Sunday Times, include additional tests for drivers of taxis, buses and trucks, which will have a bearing on the decision to grant them professional driving permits. RTMC spokesperson Simon Zwane said the proposal to re-test drivers was motivated by a number of factors. ‘When you renew your licence, which is valid for five years, you should not just go to the window; we believe you should be re-tested. Others, during the five years, have picked up wrong behaviours, they have forgotten what they learnt, that’s why they must be re-tested. Many people will not be able to pass,’ he said. But a civil society organisation has criticised the proposals, saying they would collapse the economy and take people out of jobs. There are also questions about whether the RTMC could cope with the additional workload.