A fierce debate has ignited over the issue.
Cape Town – A video circulating on social media of a traffic officer taking a breathalyser test after eating hot cross buns has ignited fierce debate.
A man in a traffic department uniform, identified only as Mr Williams is seen blowing into a breath testing device. His alcohol level is measured as zero.
He is then offered hot cross buns and after consuming just two bites of the spicy treats his breath is again tested. This time it registers an alcohol level of 0.21. In South Africa, a breath alcohol content of 0.24mg per 1 000ml, or a blood alcohol limit of 0.05g per 100ml means you are legally drunk.
While the origin of the video is unknown it has raised a thorny question ahead of the long weekend when South Africa’s accident and road death toll traditionally spikes.
Can a motorist face prosecution on a drunk driving charge for eating these traditional Easter treats?
Yasir Ahmed, the Chief Director: Transport Regulation in the Western Cape Transport and Public Works department explains:
“It is unknown what the yeast or other content of the buns are and whether any fermentation that produced miniscule amounts of ethanol may have taken place.
“What the officer should, however, have known is that one should not eat or drink or smoke before blowing. This should form part of his training to use such a device. Mouth alcohol could have been detected to indicate the result from the fermentation referred to.
What is the procedure for testing alcohol levels?
“But the norm and standard operating procedure, as per the training of officers who conduct the tests, would be to allow 15 to 20 minutes for all mouth alcohol to dissipate. This will in no way affect his actual breath alcohol level,” explains Ahmed.
Can the results be trusted?
“Any result must also be read with other symptoms and indicators of intoxication – common sense for a trained officer in other words. The validity and accuracy of such devices and procedures are in no way invalidated by this,” Ahmed says.
Ahmed further clarifies that “the instrument used in the video clip is an alcohol screener. Once a positive reading is obtained with the screening device, a suspect is taken to either an alcohol evidence centre, where evidentiary breath alcohol testers are used to verify breath alcohol levels; or a blood sample is taken to measure blood alcohol levels, either of which may be submitted as evidence in a Court of Law.”
According to Ahmed, action should be taken against the persons responsible for making the video as it “sends out an inaccurate message and undermines law enforcement and the saving of lives that are taken by drunk drivers”.
“A bad and false message for road safety initiatives has been sent by this officer who is meant to uphold the law,” says Ahmed.