SINGAPORE — Of all the things you expect to receive at a police roadblock, a goodie bag is probably the very last.
But an island-wide enforcement operation against drink driving was conducted in the wee hours (approximately 1-5am) on Thursday, December 3rd, and a number of drivers were handed an unexpected festive season bonus for a good reason — in addition to keeping their records clean, that is.
They were given goodie bags containing a notepad, towel and a wallet ninja multi-purpose card.
Errant drivers who made the wrong choice, to imbibe and drive, obviously got the opposite treatment.
Out of 80 drivers stopped and tested for alcohol consumption at various roadblocks across Singapore, 15 men and one woman (all aged between 22 and 47) got the usual prize for flouting the law. They failed the test and were arrested for drink driving.
One of the bigger operations situated before the Clemenceau Avenue ERP gantry included a fairly sizeable force: approximately 20 officers consisting of both men and women, two Volvo S80 T5 sedans, a Subaru Impreza, two vans, two motorbikes and one Breath Evidential Analyser (BEA) mobile. The latter is currently the only unit of its kind in Singapore.
The BEA mobile is an advanced breath-alcohol analyser designed for mobile testing. Usually after the initial blow test — in which the suspect blows into a handheld breathalyzer — he or she would then be escorted to the nearest police station for further testing.
This entire process would normally take an hour, but with the BEA mobile in action, this is cut down to just 15 to 20 minutes, from the time of the blow test to the arrest. The Traffic Police declined comment on exactly how the technology works though, and we weren’t allowed to view the process first hand.
But it’s more than enough to know that drink drivers can now be booked on the spot. Previously, a suspected drink driver could refuse a breathalyser test and undergo a blood test at the nearest police station.
The highest Breath Evidential Analyser (BEA) test result for the operation was 79 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath, which is 44 microgrammes above the prescribed legal limit of 35.
On the other side of the coin, drivers who were found to have exercised responsibility on the roads, for example by engaging valet services after drinking, were commended and given a goodie bag each.
One such valet driver called himself Toh. An accountant by day and once-a-week valet by night, Toh drives the blotto home to earn extra income.
His passenger, a man with bleached blonde hair in his early thirties, wanted to remain anonymous but said that he always enlists a valet to drive him home, especially after a night drinking at Clarke Quay.
Thankfully, drink driving problems seem to be on the wane.
From January to September of last year, there were 2,326 drink driving violations. This year that number has gone down to 1,785. During the same period, the number of fatalities from drink driving related accidents dropped from 12 to nine, and injuries from 167 to 128.
It is a trend the Traffic Police are eager to keep going. Penalties sweep errant drivers off the road, of course, but perhaps small tokens like goodie bags can reinforce good behaviour.
“We want to encourage people to be more responsible,” said Traffic Police Commander Sam Tee at the roadblock.
What happens if you’re caught drink driving?
Drink drivers, upon conviction, will be disqualified from driving for at least 12 months. They will lose their driving licences and have to retake and pass the theory and practical driving tests in order to obtain their driving licences again.
In addition, first-time offenders can be fined between $1,000 and $5,000 and can have their driving licences disqualified for a period ranging from 12 to 48 months, depending on their BEA test results.
Repeat offenders may be punished with a maximum fine of $30,000 and a mandatory jail term of up to three years. They may also receive up to six strokes of the cane should death or serious injury be caused.
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