Drink-driving: Even a drop of alcohol will send you to jail
Posted Saturday, March 2 2013 at 02:00
Concerns are rising out of the police’s interpretation of a section of the Traffic Control and Road Safety Act, an interpretation, which they are using as leeway to arrest anyone who has taken alcohol, even if they have not exceeded the prescribed legal limit.
The alcoblow is now officially back on Ugandan roads and many people have spent nights in police cells due to having taken a bottle too many.
But there have been public concerns over the interpretation of the law. The alcoblow measures the blood alcohol concentration in the body and will indicate if a driver has taken alcohol beyond the prescribed limit.
In recent months, several drivers have been subjected to breath tests to obtain an indication of the proportion of alcohol in their blood.
The legally prescribed limit is 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, (expressed as 0.08 per cent of blood alcohol content) which is equivalent to 35 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milligrams of breath.
According to the law, any police officer in uniform who has reasonable cause to suspect that a person driving appears to have consumed alcohol may require the person to provide a specimen of breath for a test.
Section 112 of Uganda’s Traffic Control and Road Safety Act 1998 outlaws anyone from driving or manning an engineering plant if they have consumed alcohol which exceeds the specified legal limit.
This legal limit was set by the Ministry of Works, Housing and Communications at 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, (expressed as 0.08 per cent of blood alcohol content) which is equivalent to 35 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milligrams of breath.
There are many factors that influence the rate at which one person can get drunk. These include age, sex, size, duration of drinking, whether one has eaten any foods while drinking, whether one has urinated during the drinking process, among other factors.
However, concerns are rising out of the police’s interpretation of a section of the Traffic Control and Road Safety Act, an interpretation, which they are using as leeway to arrest anyone who has tasted alcohol, even if they have not exceeded the prescribed legal limit.
The prescribed legal limit of alcohol intake for a vehicle handler by the Ministry of Works Housing and communications is set at 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood or 35 milligrams of alcohol, which is 0.08 percent of blood alcohol content.
However, Traffic Police’s Senior Commissioner Steven Kasiima says Section 111 of the Traffic Control and Road Safety Act mandates the police to arrest any driver who has tasted alcohol.
The section in question says: “Every person who, while under the influence of alcohol or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the motor vehicle or trailer of engineering plant, drives or attempts to drive a motor vehicle, trailer of engineering plant, on any road, commits an offence.”
The law does not expressly give the police authority to arrest drivers who have consumed alcohol and are driving under the limit, but only allows for an arrest if the offender has shown signs of being incapable of having proper control of the motor vehicle.
Probed with this query, Mr Kasiima says: “If you do not test if someone has taken alcohol, how else will you know that they are incapable of controlling a vehicle? Our legal limit is zero; as long as you have tasted alcohol, your body loses control of some of its sense and hence you should not be driving.”
Asked whether the police could be carrying out the arrests illegally, Mr Kasiima says the police chose to arrest every driver who had tasted alcohol following a court ruling where a magistrate had interpreted Section 111 of the Traffic Control and Road Safety Act to mean anyone that has consumed a bit of alcohol. He, however, did not provide details of the case that provided this interpretation.