Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Drunken drivers go scot free in Zimbabwe

HARARE- No arrests were made for drunken driving during the festive season, one of the bloodiest in recent years, as all ZRP breathalysers were not working.

A traffic police car chases after a commuter omnibus
A traffic police car chases after a commuter omnibus

One hundred and three people perished on the roads in the just-ended festive season, up from 90 during the same period in 2010.

Confirming the development, police spokesperson Superintendent Andrew Phiri said all of their breathalysers needed calibration. “No arrests were made for drunken driving because we were not using our machines (breathalysers). They needed to be calibrated,” he said.

A breathalyser costs between US$120 and US$400. Supt Phiri said police arrested 177 motorists for drunken driving during the same period in 2010. Police acquired 40-top-of-the-range BMW vehicles in that year to curb road carnage across the country.

The vehicles which were acquired from South Africa to increase police visibility on the country’s major highways had breathalysers. One motorist out of the 146 drivers arrested in 2010 was prosecuted while the other offenders were fined.

Police had earlier indicated that the arrested drivers faced prosecution with no option of a fine. Once arrested for drunken driving, a suspect is taken for a breathalyser test to check the level of alcohol in his/her blood.

Others are sometimes taken to any nearest Government hospital where their blood samples would be tested to detect the level of alcohol. If it exceeds the prescribed limit of two pints of beer or 80 millimetres of alcohol per litre of blood, the suspect is liable for prosecution.

The offence carries a fine and/or a prison term or both. In addition, a driver’s licence could be cancelled or endorsed. The Zimbabwe legal limit for drivers is 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, often referred to as a BAC or blood alcohol concentration.

This is alternatively expressed in terms of breath alcohol 35 µg (micrograms) per 100 ml (which is now the usual official measure in the UK), or alcohol in the urine 107 mg per 100 ml.

This is often reckoned to be equivalent to two pints of ordinary strength beer which, for a man of average weight, is broadly true, but should not be used as a general rule.

It is impossible to draw an accurate correlation between the amount of alcohol consumed and the resulting peak BAC, and anyone trying to “drink up to the limit” runs a serious risk of exceeding it.

Meanwhile, police said the total number of people killed this festive season increased to 103 from 90 during the same period in 2010. Supt Phiri said during the same period, the number of accidents decreased to 2 256 from 2 887 recorded in 2010.

This period a total of 828 people were injured compared to 1 075 in 2010 while police impounded 2 256 unroadworthy vehicles compared to 2 887 in 2010. Supt Phiri said they issued 96 511 tickets to motorists for various offences compared to 66 994 in 2010.