Traffic police use breathalysers despite knowing they are not in working order 

  • Officials say they are still in the process of sending old machines for repair work and buying new ones
- Anup Ojha, Kathmandu

Apr 15, 2019-

The Metropolitan Traffic Police Division’s anti-drunk-driving campaign, which is on its eight year, has been widely praised for helping curb road accidents. Police reports show that since the campaign was launched, the number of critical road injuries has come down significantly, by 60 percent, and the number of fatalities too has decreased, by 6 percent.

However, the campaign could falter if action is not taken soon, as most of the breathalysers in the department are no longer in a working condition.

With the breathalysers going kaput, traffic cops, it appears, may have to go back to the old days to detect alcohol consumption: by smelling people’s mouths, which could--as it has before--invite public ridicule.

The Post in January ran a story that reported 80 percent of the breathalysers in use inside the Capital were not functioning properly. Officials at the division had told the Post that the equipment needed to be sent to China, as they were bought from there, for repair. The traffic office, however, has neither got the old machines repaired nor bought new ones yet.

Last week, the Post witnessed traffic cops using non-functioning breathalysers to detect alcohol consumption among commuters at the Thapathali bridge at 9pm. None of the machines would detect alcohol intake. When the Post requested a pedestrian, who admitted to consuming alcohol, to go through the breathalyser test, the machine failed to detect the alcohol.

“We have five breathalysers but only one works. That too fails on occasions,” said Sub-Inspector Siddhi Ganesh Shah, chief of Metropolitan Traffic Police Sector, Thapathali. “But traffic police officials on duty will know if someone has consumed alcohol, because they can smell it in the breath.”

When the Post visited the Koteshwor area, it was found that the machines in use by the officials there too were not functioning.

According to the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, out of 71 breathalysers that are being used at 42 different units in the Valley, almost all are not in proper working conditions.  

Following the Post’s story in January, the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division announced that it had allocated Rs4.1 million to buy as many as 36 sophisticated breathalysers and a calibration machine within three months.

But Senior Superintendent of Police Basanta Kumar Panta, chief of the division, said his office had not been able to buy the equipment as the first bidding was cancelled. “We have opened a second bidding,” he said.

When the Post asked Superintendent of Police Jay Raj Sapkota, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, about the non-functioning breathalysers, he acknowledged that most of the machines were beyond working order.

“On the eve of New Year (December 31), I saw a speeding vehicle almost losing control along the Gaushala-Chabahil road. When I stopped the vehicle and got an official to check if the driver had consumed alcohol, the breathalyser did not detect liquor consumption. But I could say from the smell that the driver was drunk,” Sapkota told the Post.

According to Sapkota, traffic police themselves were facing difficulties in taking action against drunk-drivers due to out-of-order machines. “When somebody is caught drunk, the machine releases a ticket, based on which we can initiate action. But if the machines fail to detect alcohol intake, we don’t have proof,” he said.

On eve of the Nepali New Year, on Saturday, traffic police took action against 262 people for drunk-driving, said Sapkota. “If the machines worked properly, the number would have gone up.”

Those booked for drink driving have to pay Rs1,000 fine and attend an hour-long class. In the past seven years of launching the campaign, traffic police have booked 285,0015 people for drink driving and raised Rs280 million in revenue.      

Published: 16-04-2019 06:30

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