Not withstanding drivers’ doubts expressed on social media, police stand by their tests

Traffic: The alcohol testing devices, which the traffic police personnel have been using to monitor drunk driving in the city, give accurate readings, traffic police officials said.

Some vehicle owners had taken to social media, questioning the accuracy of the alcohol testing device, and its hygiene ,soon after traffic police started implementing the “zero tolerance day against violation of traffic rules” in April.

The superintendent of traffic police, Major Namgay, said the instrument was meant to assess alcohol content and that it didn’t read alcohol, if drivers had not consumed alcohol.

“I did a breath test for a driver twice since he wasn’t satisfied with the first alcohol level reading, but the level was same in both the readings,” Major Namgay said.

The traffic police use two types of instruments to test the level of alcohol consumed by the drivers.

The rapid response instrument, Alcoblow, detects the presence or absence of alcohol in the body.

The driver has to blow into the cone without physically touching the instrument, until the device collects a sample for alcohol analysis.  Within three seconds, it beeps and indicates the presence of alcohol with a red light and absence with a green light.

If a tested sample shows red, the driver is further asked to blow into another instrument called the SD400 breathalyser.  This instrument, traffic police officials said, was used for both screening and evidential testing.

Here, the driver tested positive for alcohol consumption will be asked to blow through a mouthpiece to the sampling port until the sample is taken.  Shortly, the alcohol level is shown on the instrument and the reading printed out, which the police keep with the seized documents as evidence.

There is a permissible limit for alcohol level for drivers, whose driving license is more than three years old.  If the alcohol level is below 0.08 milligram for those drivers, whose driving license is more than three years old, then it’s not treated as drink driving, traffic police officials said.

However, for commercial drivers driving taxi, medium and heavy vehicles, there is no permissible limit.

When the reading is done, the mouthpiece is replaced with a new one.  Each mouthpiece costs Nu 95.  Traffic police also explained that the result of the last test could be recalled for display, if required.  Each breath alcohol reading is also stored securely in memory with the date and time.

The UK-made battery-run SD400 breathalyser and Alcoblow costs about Nu 98,900 and Nu 36,000 respectively.

Since the start of zero tolerance day against violation of traffic rules on April 17, some 265 drivers in Thimphu were issued transport infringement notice (TIN) for drink-driving.  A total of 276 drunk drivers were issued TIN in the country.  On an average, police find about 40 to 50 drivers drink driving during inspection on Fridays and Saturdays.

A fine of Nu 3,898,730 has been collected to date from all the dzongkhags for violation of traffic rules.  Thimphu alone collected a fine of Nu 1,423,500 from drivers, who were found over-speeding, double parking, using mobile phones, and drink driving, among others.

A fine of Nu 1,750 is imposed for drink driving, which tops the list of violated traffic rules, according to police officials.

Major Namgay also clarified that zero tolerance day is for all the days but on Fridays, the checking covers a wider area.

“With the start of zero tolerance against violation of traffic rules, not only traffic violations but the number of accidents has also reduced,” major Namgay said.

Police started using the alcohol testing devices in 2009.

By Dechen Tshomo