The City of Cape Town has announced that it will launch a new Mobile Alcohol Evidentiary Breath Alcohol Testing (EBAT) vehicle.
The new EBAT vehicle will be the second unit of its type deployed in South Africa, joining a unit currently deployed by Provincial Traffic Services in the Caledon district last year, the city said.
EBAT vehicles are specially converted panel vans equipped to enable officers to take evidentiary breath samples from motorists anywhere, any time.
Positive samples can be used in court to convict motorists driving under the influence, removing the need for a blood test. The vehicles are deployed in support of roadblocks and Random Breath Testing (RBT) operations.
The EBAT system differs from blood tests in that the results are immediate.
“Motorists whose alcohol level is below the legal limit can be released immediately after receiving the results while with blood tests the motorist can be detained overnight or until the end of the weekend and can spend months facing legal uncertainty,” the city said.
In comparison, cases of motorists who fail the EBAT test can be dealt with quickly using the results of this test, the city said.
“The vehicles are a force multiplier in the struggle to remove drunk drivers from the Province’s roads,” said Jacqui Gooch, head of the Department of Transport and Public Works in the Western Cape.
“They severely curtail the amount of wriggle room motorists who drink and drive have to try and avoid the consequences of their actions,” she said.
Evidentiary breath alcohol testing (EBAT) uses a machine which can read how much alcohol is in a person’s breath.
When tested, two breath samples are taken. If the lower of the two test results is not less than 0,24mg of alcohol per 1,000ml of breath, the driver will be charged.
It is called ‘evidentiary’ as the reading can be produced as evidence to prosecute individuals accused of drinking and driving. This machine, the people who operate it, and the location it operates in, must all pass a very specific and demanding set of tests in order to be used to prosecute suspects.
“The use of evidentiary breath alcohol testing was halted for a while by the National Prosecuting Authority following a challenge on the constitutionality of evidentiary breath alcohol testing,” said Advocate Kyle Reinecke, deputy director-general for transport management in the Western Cape.
“A court case (The State vs Hendrickse) ensued and the plaintiff found not guilty for drunk driving. Shortcomings with the equipment training of staff and testing procedures identified during this case have subsequently been addressed and we are confident that the results obtained through the EBAT equipment can successfully be used in a court of law,” he said.