Half of police breathalysers don't work

Police scrambled to defend their alcohol testing programme after scientists reported that almost half of the breathalysers they tested gave erroneous readings or did not work at all.

File photo by Sunthorn Pongpao

The breathalysers used by traffic police are up to standard because they are inspected every three to six months, said Vorasak Nopsittiporn, the deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

If a breathalyser gives inaccurate readings, it is replaced immediately, he said on Friday.

"As for the claim that all breathalysers will be collected for inspection right away, I don't think that will happen because I believe in the standard of the police department," said Pol Maj Gen Vorasak.

The Department of Medical Science earlier in the day reported that more than 1,200 alcohol testing devices had been found to give erroneous readings or to not work at all.

Director-general Niphon Popattanachai said his department, under the Public Health Ministry, had inspected 2,558 devices ahead of the New Year holiday.

It found out that 1,338 (52.3%) breathalysers worked normally; 1,086 (42.5%) devices gave inaccurate readings; and 134 (5.2%) others were broken, mainly due to a lack of maintenance.

The health official said the results showed that many of the breathalysers must be recalibrated because they provided readings higher than the actual blood alcohol level.

The units must be inspected every six months because they have electrochemical cells that deteriorate over time, he added.

Excise Department director-general Somchai Pulsawas said on Friday his department would take serious action against sales and distribution of smuggled cigarettes and alcohol during the coming holiday season.

He said the sales of smuggled alcohol and cigarettes have increased, especially at tourist destinations.

"Small vendors are putting illegal alcohol in empty high-brand bottles and selling them to tourists," Mr Somchai said. "Consumption of illegal alcohol is dangerous; in some cases people can die."

Vendors of alcohol and cigarettes in tourist spots will be inspected regularly by the department during the holiday.

Any vendor found in violation will be banned from selling alcohol for 15 days and their licence temporarily revoked. He also warned against setting up street stalls selling alcoholic drinks.

Related search: breathalysers, erroneous readings

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