Mon | Jan 21, 2019

Brakes on drunk driving - Rigorous alcohol checks over Christmas, New Year as road fatalities pass 300

Published:Sunday | December 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Sergeant Leroy Christopher of the Jamaica Constabulary Force's Traffic and Highway Patrol Division administers an alcohol-level test to a private citizen during a demonstration at the Elletson Road Police Station in Kingston in 2008. - File
The Intoxilyzer 8000, or evidence breathalyser machine, which is used to verify alcohol levels after initial screening.
Fatalities Sign
The Intoxilyzer S-D2 breathalyser machine.
Corporal Daniel Bennett (left) of the police Road Safety Unit demonstrates how a breathalyser works to Stanley Cohen (right) during a Jamaica Traffic Safety Expo at Jamaica College in June. Looking on are (from second left) Dr Lucien Jones, vice-chairman of the National Road Safety Council; Orville Johnson, executive director, Insurance Association of Jamaica; and Corporal Donald Brown of the police Accident Investigative and Reconstruction Unit. - Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer

Chad Bryan, Sunday Gleaner Writer

The December holiday period, which is often referred to as the 'silly season' for traffic because of the high number of crashes that tend to occur, already seems to be in full swing.

Vice-chairman of the National Road Safety
Council (NRSC), Dr Lucien Jones, said in a meeting held with the police
last week that a high proportion of persons - about 57 per cent - whose
breath was analysed were found to have been

The tests were administered with the SD-5
breathalyser, which has been proven a safe and reliable method to
determine a person's alcohol levels. Jones confirmed that the process is
100 per cent accurate.

A policeman stationed at
Elletson Road in Kingston explained how the breath test is

"A preliminary test must be done first.
If you are stopped on the road and you are suspected to be intoxicated, a
mini-machine, the SD-5, is used to get a sample of your breath on the
scene," the policeman said. "By law, you are not allowed to go over 35
microgrammes. If you go over 34, you will be taken to get a sample of
your breath on the Intoxilyzer 8000 evidence

This instrument, according to the NRSC,
gives results on an evidence card. It shows the person's name, driver's
licence number, the time at which the test was done, and the alcohol
level recorded.

"Once you come to the machine, it's
just for you to blow into it. Once the machine is prepped, you are given
a straw; you insert it yourself and you blow in it. The machine takes
the amount of sample that it needs to do a reading," said the

He emphasised the technology's

"It is a very sensitive machine. You cannot
even have your cell phone. The person with the alcohol cannot stay
inside the room when the evidence is being checked, because it will
fail. It is so sensitive," the policeman

The person conducting the breath test on
the machine has to be certified to apply it.

is continuing its road safety campaign to have the number of traffic
deaths reduced. Through public education in the form of advertisements,
motorists are being advised not to drink and drive and to designate a
driver if other persons are going to drink.

There has
been an upsurge in traffic deaths recently, and in mid-December, the
country has already gone past the 300 deaths mark, well beyond the Below
240 objective identified as a marker on the way to reduced traffic
fatalities. Motorcyclists, especially in the western end of the island,
have been especially susceptible to fatal