Motor Vehicle Accidents (MVA) in Bhutan are mainly caused by human error which includes unsafe overtaking, loss of control, use of mobile phones, unsafe reversing and tailgating. The second highest cause of MVA is driving under influence of alcohol.
There is an increase in the number of violation on drink and drive over the past two years and the reason behind this detection is the alcohol tester machines. There are two types of alcohol tester machine, SD 400 and Alco-Blow.
Commanding Officer of Traffic Police Division, Kencho Tshering, said the SD 400, an alcohol testing machine shows the alcohol concentration in the blood.
Talking on the alcohol checking procedure, he said, “First we will check through a machine called Alco-Blow. Person need not have to touch their mouth on the machine; they just need to blow where it will show the indication of alcohol content.”
If alcohol presence is detected in the breath then the person is taken to be tested at the main machine called SD 400 where blood alcohol concentration level is measured. A person is required to put the pipe (mouthpiece) into their mouth to blow.
“People misunderstand, they think that we use same pipe for every blower but it is not true. We have enough blowpipes and we use different pipe for every individual and we throw once used, we even do not sterilize,” he added.
After the introduction of compulsory checking on drink driving and on Zero Tolerance Day, there has been a reduction in the number of MVA in the country.
Traffic Police Division said such an initiative has made the public more aware on drink driving and now there is now a trend of keeping a designated driver. “They adjust somehow, in a way that they avoid driving when they are drunk, instead they ask their sober friend to drive for them, and some they travel by taxi,” the Commanding Officer said.
As per the RSTA Rules and Regulation, the alcohol consumption limitation is categorized into two; 0.08 mg per 100 ml. In this case, any concentration of alcohol in a result is considered as drink driving.
A categorized vehicle, which means not allowed to drink at all while driving, are commercial vehicle such as taxis, buses, heavy medium vehicle, ordinary driving license whose license is less than three years and for the professional driving license.
The second category is 80 mg per 100 ml. It means it is a legally permissible of alcohol for people holding an ordinary driving license that is more than three years.
The penalty on drink and drive for professional driving license holders, at first catch gets them a first punch in license as warning with monitoring penalty. On second catch, another punch is made on the license, and if caught for the third time then the license is either suspended or cancelled.
For ordinary license, on first catch, a penalty of Nu 1,750 is levied. On second catch, the license will be served with one punch, and if caught for the third time, then it may lead either suspension or cancellation of the license.
“All the license punching and fining will be forwarded to traffic discipline committee, RSTA,” said the Commanding Officer of Police Traffic Division, further adding, “If a person is caught under influence of alcohol or under unlicensed, then traffic will impose them a fine accordingly and will hand over the vehicle to those with valid license and alcohol free.”
According to police, compulsory alcohol checking is carried frequently and consistently. The Zero Tolerance Day will continue to be observed every Friday.
“Zero tolerance to traffic violation is every day. It is not true that there will be consideration if they were caught on other days apart from Zero Tolerance Day. Even if it is a minor case there will be no consideration unlike before,” the Commanding Officer added.
He also said that, “Before we use to spoon-feed every driver on minor cases, like improper parking and traffic congestion, but now, with our aim to make drivers in a country to take their responsibility, we will phase off the spoon-feeding practices by the traffic.”
Henceforth, no excuses or warning is to be entertained, instead police will directly take action against the person even on minor traffic case.
The aim is to make all drivers take the responsibility so that the roads will be safe to use by everybody. This is expected to improve road ethics and the driving attitude among the drivers in the city.
Thimphu tops the list of having the highest MVA with 539 cases while Gasa has the least MVA case.