The Royal Grenada Police (RGPF) will begin administering sobriety tests on drivers before end of year and officials have said they are not concerned about problems arising due to unreliable test results.
The lawmen updated the media last week Thursday on how the breathalyzers will function.
Head of Police Operations, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ACP) Jesmon Prince, responding to a question about the reliability of breathalyzer results said, “We have not gone into that kind of examination. The equipment that we have are equipment that have been tested, that have been used by other countries overseas.”
“So we have not gone into the discussion as to the margin of error because they are being used in countries that are much more developed than ours. Trinidad and Tobago use those equipment, as well as other countries in North America, Europe and other areas,” he told reporters.
But a New York Times investigation has determined that breathalyzer testing can be unreliable, subject to human error and equipment malfunction.
ACP Prince said that Grenada will be using new equipment and he does not anticipate such problems.
Amended legislation is due to be Gazetted within a week in order to give police officers the legal authority to perform breath, blood and urine tests on drivers who are suspected of driving while drunk.
The police are hoping to have everything in place in time for the festive season when alcohol consumption is expected to increase.
The legal limit for alcohol consumption has been set 70 micrograms of alcohol to 100 millilitres of breath.
The penalty for first time offenders who are found guilty will be a maximum fine of $5,000 and 12 months imprisonment, a second conviction would result in a $10, 000 fine and two years imprisonment.
A group of 35 police officers have been trained to perform and record sobriety tests on motorists.
Some 25 officers are certified to perform field tests and another 10 were trained to operate the Calibration kits which would establish the evidence of being over the legal limit.
The amendments to the Road Traffic Act will give the police the authority to perform a breathalyzer test on anyone with “reasonable suspicion”.
Under the Act “reasonable suspicion” includes driving erratically, detecting the scent of alcohol on a driver or being involved in a road accident.
The officers certified to perform breathalyzer tests were trained last year by Rose International, based in Trinidad and Tobago.
An aspect of the sobriety testing involves administering tests on drivers just on the basis of attending a function where alcohol is served.
Head of Police Community Relations, Superintendent Vannie Curwen said police officers will consider attendance at events where there is alcohol to be sufficient “reasonable suspicion” to test.
He said drivers can expect to be subjected to breathalyzer tests on leaving places like the national stadium, a venue for numerous entertainment activities.
Attorney-at-law Derek Sylvester agrees that such cases can constitute reasonable suspicion.
“The police could have stake out… undercover operations – that’s normal policing. The issue is persons should not drink and drive above the required limit,” said Sylvester, who is one of the top defense lawyers in the country.
However, the police did not outline a plan for performing breathalyzer tests on public transport operators who openly purchase and consume alcohol at the St George’s Bus Terminal.
The new laws are not based on any official data linking alcohol use with road accidents although Head of the Traffic Department, Superintendent Randy Connaught, in his presentation, quoted the number of Road accidents for the year at 2,272, with eight fatalities and 87 classified as serious.
According to the police, there have been instances where they strongly believe alcohol played a part in Road accidents and they have also attempted to prosecute drivers for drunken driving but in the absence of legislation these cases could not be tried.
Grenada is classified as having one of the highest alcohol consumption rates per capita in the world.