Legislation for the alcohol testing of drivers or operators of vehicles has been gazetted and is now in force. The Police and Transport Legislation (Amendment) (Alcohol Testing) Act 2016 commenced operation on 1st June 2016.
The Act provides police with the power to require the driver or person in charge of a vehicle to submit to a breath test in accordance with the police officer’s direction. ‘Vehicles’ includes motor vehicles, vessels and aircraft.
Police officers now have the power to conduct alcohol testing on the person driving or in charge of the vehicle, a person who is in the driver’s seat and attempting to put a vehicle in motion, or a person who the officer has reasonable cause to suspect was within the previous hour driving or in charge of a vehicle and was driving or in charge of the vehicle at the time it was involved in an accident.
Alcohol is a leading factor in the number of crashes where people die or are seriously injured on Solomon Islands roads.
The aim of the legislation and police operations which will use the provisions is to reduce death and serious injury resulting from vehicle accidents where alcohol has been a contributing factor. The legislation will greatly enhance the ability of the RSIPF to remove intoxicated drivers from our roads, further ensuring the safety of all road users.
Police Officers will test for alcohol either as part of planned traffic operations, at random time and locations, at vehicle accidents, or when requested by other agencies. As such, drivers should expect to be tested at any time or location across the Solomon Islands.
The Act prescribes the level of alcohol as 0.05 grams or more of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, often referred to as the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.05%.
A driver or operator of a vehicle who is at this level or higher has committed an offence.
The prescribed level of 0.05% was decided upon because international best practice indicates that at this level it is known that drivers are impaired and are more likely to be involved in motor vehicle accidents at that level. This risk of having an accident increases significantly as the BAC level increases in a driver.
The Police officers who will be conducting Random Breath Testing have recently completed training covering the operation of the Alcolizer LE5 breathalyser device, the legislation and the supporting governance.
A breath test to determine the Blood Alcohol Concentration of a driver is performed by a police officer both at the roadside, called a ‘Preliminary Breath Test’, and at a police station, called an ‘Evidentiary Breath Test’.
Preliminary Breath Tests can be performed in two ways, ‘Passive’ when the driver counts or talks near the breathalyser, and ‘Active’, by blowing into a mouth tube. The Evidentiary Breath Test is performed by blowing into a mouth tube.
There are some very important things that the people of the Solomon Islands need to know and understand with the introduction of Random Breath Testing, some of these things are;
• The police have the authority to demand the driver of a vehicle to supply a sample of breath for a breath test,
• The sample of breath must be provided according to the officers directions,
• If a driver refuses to provide a sample of breath, they can be arrested and charged under Section 179 of the Police Act,
• If a driver fails to provide a sample of breath according to the officers directions, they can be arrested and charged under Section 179 of the Police Act,
• Random Breath Testing applies to drivers or operators of motor vehicles, vessels and aircraft.
• The definition of motor vehicle as stated in the legislation means any mechanically propelled vehicle, and therefore includes cars, buses, taxis, motorbikes, trucks, tractors etc.
• A person can be required to undergo a breath test if they are seated in the driver’s seat attempting to put the vehicle in motion, but not actually driving the vehicle,
Fully licensed drivers seated in the passenger seat of a vehicle supervising a provisional license holder can be required to undergo a breath test, because they are deemed to be in charge of the vehicle, in addition to the provisional driver who can be tested as well.
The penalties for a driver being at or above the prescribed level or for failing or refusing a breath test are severe and include the following;
• For a first offence of being at or above the prescribed level of 0.05% BAC, $10,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both, and disqualification of driver’s licence,
• For a second offence of being at or above the prescribed level of 0.05% BAC, $20,000 or 2 years imprisonment or both, and disqualification of driver’s licence,
• For refusing or failing a breath test, $10,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both, and disqualification of driver’s licence.
There are a lot of factors that affect the concentration of alcohol in your blood;
• How much you have had to drink and how quickly you have been drinking,
• The type of alcohol,
• Your gender,
• How much you weigh and when you last ate,
• Your general health.
Drinking coffee or water, having some food, a swim, or vomiting, does not reduce the alcohol concentration in your blood or make you ‘sober up’ faster. Time is the only thing that will reduce the effects of alcohol.
Drivers should be aware that alcohol can remain in the body for many hours after consumption, and a person may still exceed the prescribed level many hours later and even the following morning if a large amount of alcohol has been consumed.
If you are going to be drinking alcohol you will need to make a plan to be able to get home, which might include nominating a designated driver in your group who will not drink alcohol, catch a bus or taxi or make some other arrangements that does not involve driving after you have been drinking alcohol, like staying at a friend’s house.
The message from police is simple; if you are going to drink, don’t drive. If you are going to drive, don’t drink.
Alcohol Breath Testing can occur at anytime and anywhere. If you drink and drive, you will be caught.
The RSIPF is committed to ensuring the safety of road users and passengers of vessels and aircraft, and this program is a positive step towards that goal.
Police also advise anyone who is the passenger of a vehicle where they believe that the driver is under the influence of alcohol to either not enter the vehicle, or if they are already a passenger, ask the driver to stop and then leave the vehicle.
Passengers of commercial vehicles who believe that the driver is under the influence of alcohol should report the details including the drivers name or description, vehicle description and registration number and time and location to police immediately.
The RSIPF would like to thank the World Health Organisation (WHO), for their support during consultations on the legislation and for providing the Alcolizer LE5 breathalyser devices to be used by the RSIPF.