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Breathalyzers Curb Traffic Carnage on Kenyan Roads

Breathalyzers Curb Traffic Carnage on Kenyan Roads
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Kenyan roads claim more than 3,000 fatalities each year. In a bid to reduce drunk driving-related accidents breathalyzers have been deployed throughout the country. A special task force has been charged with ensuring the roads are kept free from those who violate the law, and authorities say it seems to be paying off.

At 10 p.m. along Jogoo Road in Nairobi, one of Kenya’s busiest highways, police have set up a roadblock to conduct random checks for intoxicated drivers.

Breathalyzers - which measure blood alcohol content from air expelled from a person’s mouth - were first introduced in Kenya three years ago to curb a steep increase in drunken driving accidents and deaths.

A breathalyzer kit costs approximately $2,000 and the National Transport and Safety Authority has deployed 12 kits throughout the country.

The NTSA works in tandem with Kenyan police so police cannot solicit bribes from drivers caught intoxicated.

Cosmas Ngesu, from the NTSA, says this approach helps with enforcement of drunk driving laws.

“What we have also done is we have partnered with Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, who also monitor this operation," he said. "[They] send their people so we are checking the initiative to check on corruption.”

Since January alone, more than 3,000 people have died on Kenyan roads, with 80 percent of those deaths attributed to drunken driving.

Ngesu says those figures represent a drop from just a few years ago and he says the public is getting the intended message from the police breathalyzer checks.

“We used to record [a] high level of crashes particularly over the weekend, end of month, caused by people driving from pubs drunk. But since we started, the statistics have gone down," he said. "Additionally we have created awareness. Many people chose to take taxis home after drinking instead of drinking and driving, so the awareness is good.”

And this is why George Karao looks forward to the weekend -- when he can catch up with friends over drinks after a long work week and not worry about driving home.

He is a client of Smart Fellas, a cab company which caters to clients who are over the legal alcohol limit. With an hour’s notice, they will meet you at the bar or restaurant and drive you home in your own car for an affordable membership fee of $20 to $50 per year. Karao says he signed up as soon as he heard of the service.

“Road carnage has been a main concern for everyone and so when you have a service like this, you have the option of still having a good time and getting home in one piece without causing any accidents and it’s not a service for the rich people per se," he said. "Anybody can use it.”

The taxi fees are cheaper than getting caught on the road intoxicated and having to go to court.

Those found guilty of drunk driving face fines of up to $1,000 and two years in jail.