Thursday 5 December, 2019

Health expert calls for mandatory alcohol, drug test of drivers

Director of the Non-Communicable Diseases and Injuries Prevention at the Ministry of Health, Dr Tamu Davidson is calling for the amendment of legislation to the island's laws, to make testing for alcohol and drugs mandatory.

Speaking at the United Nations Caribbean Road Safety Workshop at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) offices in St Andrew, on Thursday, Davidson said the that authorities are struggling to deal with drivers drinking and or using drugs, as presently it is left to the discretion of the police to test.

According to Davidson, the situation is compounded with individuals who are involved in major accidents, having the option to answer questions on their use of alcohol and drugs by doctors at the hospitals, instead of also given a mandatory test.

Davidson said, "the legislation with respect to drinking and driving and drug use is weak. It wasn't mandatory and was left to the discretion of the police testing.

"When persons were in a major motor vehicle accident come into the hospital setting, it is voluntary testing. The person should be tested, but very often they are not as it is not mandatory.

"There is a question that we have, as a part of our injury surveillance system, where we ask 'whether you have utilised alcohol or not', very often that question is left unanswered, so the response rate is very low with respect to that and most times they usually answer no," Davidson said.

Davidson believes mandatory testing by the police of drivers will help to plug the carnage on the Jamaican roads, which according to Kanute Hare, director of the Road Safety Unit at the Ministry of Transport, is expected to go beyond 400 fatalities this year if the current trend continues.

Davidson said that both the police and health care officials have complained about the fact that the tests are not mandatory. She said that a part of the current road traffic act will look at making the adjustment in the law.

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