Beware of breath analysers

THE HANS INDIA |   Sep 14,2017 , 01:06 AM IST

Swine flu, TB may attack, warn doctors; such cases have been reported in the city during the past few months 

A policeman testing a motorist for drunken driving  in Visakhapatnam
A policeman testing a motorist for drunken driving in Visakhapatnam

 Visakhapatnam: Beware of breath analysers! One might get infected with swine flu or TB. Several such cases have been reported in the city during the past few months.“Unnecessarily police took a test on me using a breath analyser though I did not consume alcohol. After that test I got infected with cough and cold,’’ said K Chandrasekar,  a private educational institute director.   

Dr Ch Bhusana Rao, senior chest physician of Government Chest Hospital, said swine flu or TB could attack easily with breath analysers used to test the people for drunken driving.

The police are often found using the same analyser to all the persons being checked for drunken driving. “If one person has viral fever or cold, cough while blowing into the device inflectional virus pass through air and contact the person,” Bhushana Rao pointed out.

The tests are also misleading and need not be accurate, said legal sources and a judge in New Delhi also opined the same while trying an auto-rickshaw driver and quashed the case.

All electronic devices, including an alcometre, does not give 100 per cent accurate reading and error is bound to occur, the judge said.

It was a matter of common knowledge that every electronic device, be it an alcometre or a glucometre, did not give 100 per cent accurate reading/result and margin of error varying from 10 to 20 per cent is bound to occur, Additional Sessions Judge Lokesh Kumar Sharma said.

 Visakhapatnam city has 50 breath analysers and police teams use nearly in fifty centres across the city. On and of average 60 to 100 cases booked daily and over 2,500 persons face the metre daily.  As per records, 16,372 drunken drive cases were registered up to August 31, 2017 from January 1. Of them,  321 persons were imprisoned and Rs 1.09 crore penalty was collected from them.  

The court also took strong exception to the fact that the challenging officer had acted contrary to police guidelines that when a person is caught in drunken driving, he is not allowed to go home on his own and it is the duty of the challenging officer to make arrangement for his safe return.

 Traffic ADCP Mahendra Pathrudu admitted that these devices may not find the accurate percentage of alcohol, but can find whether a person consumed above permissible limits. “We wash the device cap every day morning for getting ready in the evening. We change the straw from person to person. When drunkard is identified, we book a case and produce him in the court,’’ he said.

The judge set aside a trial court order sentencing the man to jail for six days for driving an auto-rickshaw in a drunken state in Hyderabad stating there was no proof that the device, used to measure alcohol content in his body, was ISI marked or was properly functioning when it was used in this case.

“It raises a question mark on authenticity and genuineness of readings procured from the alcometre in the absence of production of any certificate of accuracy of reading carried out by it, particularly when its functionality was not at all established by the investigating agency.”  

 “Once the genuineness and authenticity of this very document had fallen in grave suspicion and a question mark has been raised in respect thereof, then the Magistrate, in my considered opinion, was not justified to have relied upon such a false and fabricated document against the appellant, ‘’ the judge said. The permissible limit is 30 mg alcohol per 100 ml blood and if it is more, a person can be booked for the offence under section 185 (drunken driving) of Motor Vehicle Act .

By Jatlee Dontala

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