x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Police start breath tests as drink-driving deaths rise

Seventy-six people were killed in drink-driving accidents in the emirate last year, with 1,176 alcohol-related cases registered by the Traffic Prosecution, police said.

Police in Dubai have started giving motorists they believe to be drunk breath tests, after a 25 per cent rise in drink-driving deaths in the past year. Seventy-six people were killed in drink-driving accidents in the emirate last year, with 1,176 alcohol-related cases registered by the Traffic Prosecution, police said yesterday. Those numbers are up from 2007, when 60 deaths and 1,038 cases of drink driving were recorded.

Salah Bu Farusha, the head of the Dubai Traffic Prosecution, said police officers have been receiving training to use breathalysers, which test the alcohol level in a person's breath. Police have begun trials using the devices in the Bur Dubai and Deira areas, he said. "The device will help build a case against someone who has not necessarily been involved in an accident but will stand as proof in court that he is guilty of drink driving or had the intention of drink driving by being behind the wheel."

Mr Bu Farusha said if an officer stopped a car and had reason to suspect the driver had been drinking, he or she would be required to submit to a breathalyser test at a police station. Anyone who tests positive would then undergo a blood test. Previously police did not carry out breath tests, but required anyone involved in an accident to submit to a blood test. It is against the law to have consumed any alcohol before driving. Officials say the increase in drink-driving cases is linked to the increasing population in the city, the corresponding rise in the number of cars as well as a police plan to target road and traffic violators. Col Saif Muhair al Mazrouei, the deputy director of the Traffic Department at Dubai Police, said tough drinking and driving punishments enacted last March, including possible fines of between Dh20,000 (US$5,450) and Dh30,000, combined with increased arrests should act as a deterrent. "The implications of the punishments and the arrests may have not reached everyone in 2008, but our goal for 2009 is to catch all the rest that have not been caught yet and close the cycle," said Col al Mazrouei. "Anyone who gets arrested drinking and driving rarely ever reoffends. If anyone escaped getting caught in 2008, we will get them in 2009." Although the nationalities of drink-drivers vary, officials say most of the cases involve Asians. "The majority are from the Asian community who may have been drinking at a bar or at home," said Mr Bu Farusha. Col al Mazrouei said many innocent lives were being lost to drink-driving. "Most of the victims are passengers with the driver, or passengers in other cars." In one recent crash, a driver who had been drinking ran a red light near Mina Plaza hotel. Two people were killed and six others injured in the crash, while the driver suffered moderate injuries. If convicted of drink driving, motorists face up to three years in jail and deportation, depending on whether the offence resulted in an accident and whether it caused death or injury. rabubaker@thenational.ae