Breathalyser testing to commence before end of 2019

by Linda Straker

  • Road Traffic Act amendment to mandatorily conduct breathalysers test will be enforced.
  • Passing calibration will be under 70 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath
  • Machines and training supported by US$45,000 grant from St George’s University

Almost two years after getting parliamentary approval from both houses, police in Grenada say amendments to the Road Traffic Act that provides for its members to mandatorily conduct breathalysers test on drivers who are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, will be enforced.

“We are now at a juncture where our laws and operations strategy must be relevant and prudent to allow the heralding of a new approach to traffic management and road safety,” said Randy Connaught, Head of the Traffic Department, who explained that enforcing the 2017 amendments is part of the force’s strategy to encourage safe road use.

Connaught said that the law provides for breathalyser, blood and urine samples testing on all drivers suspected of driving under the influence. The passing calibration will be under 70 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, and 160 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, or any portion as may be prescribed by regulation. The tests will be done during routine police road inspections on any persons attempting to drive or driving a vehicle. The vehicle must be in motion and the driver must be requested to stop by a police officer before the test can be conducted.

Connaught explained that the police can stop a vehicle during routine traffic checks for failing to wear a seatbelt, but, if on approaching the vehicle, alcohol bottles are seen and there is a strong smell of alcohol on the driver, the police will request the driver take the breathalyser test.

“Failing to comply with the request to take the test, that person can be arrested and taken to the police station,” said Head of the Police Community Relations Department, Vannie Curwen. The test will also be conducted after an accident on the road. Engaging in any activity that can alter the reading is also an offence.

The law provides for a maximum penalty on first conviction of $5,000 and or one-year imprisonment while for the second and other convictions, a maximum of $12,000 and or two years imprisonment. A person can be fined only, or sent to prison or receive both a fine and prison term.

“I hope that resonates well with the minds of the general public. It is supposed to be a deterrent first and foremost; the consequences are grave,” Connaught said.

The decision to adopt such a measure was not based on qualitative data collection but mainly on observation because there is scientific data gathering on the issue. In the past police cases were dismissed because of Grenada’s failure to have the required law that mandates accepted alcohol consumption.

“The new piece of legislation is not yet tested in court and we expect legislative challenges,” said Curwen. The commencing date is yet to be gazetted, but the police expect that it will be ready before the end of 2019.

Several police officers were trained in using and calibrating the equipment. Machines and training were conducted by the Trinidad and Tobago-based ROSE Environmental with a US$45,000 grant from St George’s University (SGU).

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