According to Section 112 of the 1998 Traffic Control and Road Safety Act, any person who drives a vehicle when the amount of alcohol in their blood "exceeds the prescribed limit at the time he or she provides the specimen commits an offence."
Driving under the influence of alcohol is one of the causes of accidents worldwide. So, it is just in order that in recent months Traffic police officers have zealously taken to subjecting motorists to the breathalyzer test to make sure they are not breaking this potentially life-saving law. One common feature in drink-driving legislation is the legal limit.
In Uganda this is 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. Of late, however, there has been concern that the police is ignoring the limit and arresting anyone who has as much as tasted anything alcoholic. And the admission came from the police Commissioner Steven Kasiima, who told Daily Monitor that the police would arrest anyone found driving after taking alcohol, however little.
This is unfortunate, and it goes against the spirit and the letter of the law. Alcohol is a normal part of our social life. It is not unusual for very decent friends to talk over a beer. Guests in homes and at cocktail receptions often courteously accept a glass of wine. It is wrong for Mr Kasiima to suggest that if an adult man or woman of proportional weight takes a glass of wine and is found driving 20 minutes later, he/she must necessarily be unfit to drive.
Instead, the police should be interested in educating people on how much drink is too much - for the law. Because the police knows that people are going to take some alcohol anyway and drive away - as most of them do on daily basis - Kasiima's breathalyzers reek of ulterior motives.
It is commendable that the police collects billions of shillings from offenders. But these should be real offenders. Perhaps the Finance ministry should reconsider allowing the police to appropriate proceeds from the express penalties. Otherwise, it is possible that the motive of the breathalyzer tests has gone from ensuring road safety to revenue collection. And with a different motive, there is no knowing to what length the revenue collectors will go to grow their billions.