7 April 2013

Uganda: Drivers Should Not Take Any Alcohol - Police

AS long as you have tasted alcohol, do not get behind the wheel, otherwise you risk being arrested and charged, says Dr. Steven Kasiima, the traffic Police senior commissioner.

Ronnie Mujasi was recently arrested after the breathalyser read 0.30.

He was taken to court and fined sh600,000. Mujasi insists that 0.30 was below the limit, hence raising concern whether the traffic Police are going by the Traffic Control and Road Safety Act by arresting anyone who has taken alcohol, whether or not they have exceeded the legal limit.

Ibin Senkumbi, the Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson, says according to the Act, the legal alcohol limit is 35milligrammes, which is 0.08.

However, for public service vehicles, the limit is below 0.01, meaning the driver should not have any alcohol in their bloodstream.

Section 111 of the Act reads that every person, who, while under the influence of drink or a drug, to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the motor vehicle, trailer or engineering plant on any road, commits an offence and is liable to conviction.

Hence, the law gives leeway to the Police to arrest drivers who have consumed alcohol above the legal limit and show signs of incapability to control the vehicle.

However, Kasiima says: "Our legal limit is zero; so long as you have tasted alcohol, you will be arrested since your body loses some sense of control."

He says that the zero limit follows a court ruling in which a magistrate interpreted Section 112 of the Act to mean anyone who has consumed alcohol should face arrest, and that the interpretation cannot be challenged.

"Section 112 protects Police officers who arrest drivers who have been drinking, whether or not the alcohol is above the legal limit," says Kasiima.

Section 112(4) reads that notwithstanding sub-section 1, 2 or 3, any person who, when driving or in charge of or during any period of duty in connection with the driving of a motor vehicle licensed under section 94, drinks any intoxicating liquor, commits an offence.

"Those who want to drink should either do so at home or employ drivers," Kasiima warns.

The crackdown has led to a reduction in the number of accidents related to drink driving as pointed out in the 2012 statistics, showing a drop in the number of fatalities from 763 in 2011 to 709 in 2012.

When the Police say they will arrest all drivers with alcohol in their blood, they are abusing people's rights. Beer is not an illegal drink, like drugs such as cocaine. There is a legal limit, 35miligrammes.

Just yesterday, the Uganda Human Rights Commission said the Police are ignorant of the law and, to me, this is evidenced when they arrest drivers whose alcohol level is below 35mm.

Henry Bukenya, doctor

Medically speaking, a bottle of beer will not incapacitate a driver to the extent of failure to control a car. So, I do not understand why the Police have decided to arrest those whose alcohol level is below 0.08.

Medard Segona, lawyer and MP for Busiro East

There is need to curb accidents. However, the move to arrest drivers, even those whose alcohol level is below 0.08, should not be a decision by the Police. They can only do it in accordance with the law.

They have to start by lobbying and have the relevant minister present it to Parliament. Otherwise, it seems like the Police are writing the law, which is susceptible to human rights abuse and is illegal.

Deogratius Odokel Opolot, managing partner, Odokel Opolot & Co. Advocates

What the Police are doing is unlawful and if it is a statutory law, they should first amend it before they go on arresting people and say as long as you have drunk any alcohol, do not drive.

The Police do not make laws, it is the Parliament. Using the same breathalyser is also unlawful.

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