Thousands of motorists and drivers who have been arrested for drunken driving could find their cases thrown out of court, thanks to a ruling that the breathalyser device from the Dräger company is not reliable enough. The Western Cape High Court said the device needs to be modified heavily in order to comply with accepted standards of alcohol breath testing.
When stopped by the traffic authorities, motorists are told to blow into the Dräger breathalyser and are then judged according to a number that it displays on its LCD screen. The maximum legal limit in Mzansi is a breath alcohol content of 0.24 milligrams per 1000 millilitres of blood. Clifford Joseph Hendricks, the guy who is challenging this device, was found to be at 0.95mg.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has provisionally withdrawn all cases where the major evidence against an accused drunken driver was the Dräger breathalyser. It says it is still studying the court’s ruling.
Said Mthunzi Mhaga of the NPA: “The NPA is going to have all cases where the evidence was obtained using a Drager provisionally withdrawn or postponed, pending the Western Cape High Court ruling.”
The device itself is about the size of those old Nokia cell phones from the late 1990s. Dräger says it can operate within temperatures of between -5 degrees to 50 degrees Celcius, and will test through its two AA batteries, up to 1500 people before going flat.