KZN gets second Alcohol Evidence Centre

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The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) and the South African Breweries Limited (SAB) this week unveiled KZN's second state-of-the-art Alcohol Evidence Centre (AEC) at Umdloti RTI.

Launched in conjunction with the Department of Transport Easter Holiday road safety campaign and as part of a countrywide initiative by SAB to tackle drunk driving in South Africa, the AEC has the latest equipment to accurately detect a driver's blood alcohol level through a single breath sample.

The centre and others like it across the country are expected to dramatically improve prosecution rates of those arrested for driving under the influence.

"Drunk driving remains one of the biggest killers in South Africa and this centre is an important step in our mission to reduce the number of fatalities on KZN's roads," said Willies Mchunu, the KZN MEC for transport, community safety and liaison.

"We want all drivers to know that it is never OK to drink and drive and if they make the mistake of doing so, we are ready to catch and prosecute them."

For the current financial year, SAB has committed R4-million to supply four AECs across South Africa with equipment, including Drger Alcotest breathalysers and a closed-circuit television network to monitor the testing process.

The breathalyser machines are able to take an instant and accurate reading of the amount of alcohol in an individual's bloodstream which can be used as evidence to secure a conviction of drunk driving.

If a breathalyser detects more than 0.24mg of alcohol per litre of oxygen on someone's breath (equivalent to the maximum legal blood alcohol limit of 0.05g of per 100 millilitres of blood), a driver will be arrested, detained in a SAPS facility and charged with a criminal offence.

"Research has shown that effective enforcement and prosecution are the most effective ways to change attitudes and behaviours among those who drink and drive," observed Vincent Maphai, director of corporate affairs and transformation at SAB. "By equipping police with tools to better arrest and prosecute irresponsible drivers, we hope to make drinking and driving socially unacceptable."

Mchunu added: "Complemented by 100 graduates from the recently launched Traffic Training College in Pietermaritzburg, the AEC is an important part of our efforts to improve road safety in KZN. We are appreciative of the vision shown by SAB in helping us catch and convict those who still feel it's acceptable to get behind the wheel of a car or taxi after drinking."

The contribution of breathalyser equipment follows on SAB's recent launch of a comprehensive strategy to tackle alcohol abuse across South Africa, focusing specifically on reducing the prevalence of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, encouraging responsible trading and reducing the prevalence of drunk driving.

Last month SAB launched a hard-hitting advertising campaign called Reality Check to drive home messages about the anti-social and life threatening dangers of drinking and driving.

"We hope that the contribution of equipment will act as an effectively deterrent to those who may still consider drinking and driving," added Maphai. "A significant shift in mindset is required among those South African drivers who drink and we believe that this equipment is one of the most practical and effective ways to affect change among individuals and ultimately, society as a whole."

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