Some days ago, when D. Rajesh (name changed) was driving home late at night, he was stopped by police officers and asked to blow into their faces.

It’s a common enough sight post 11 p.m. — at several locations across the city, a queue of cars is lined up, waiting to be faced with a breath analyser, only to be told to blow into a policeman’s face, or maintain a coherent conversation.

Residents say they are glad the police force is cracking down on drunken driving, but ask — where are the breath analysers?

Sources at the police department say there is a severe shortage of breath analysers. The traffic police have far fewer than they need, while the law and order police do not possess any.

Also, the few the department have need to be serviced. In 2012, over 17,000 cases of drunken driving were booked.

The procedure, a police officer said, is that once a motorist is intercepted, he/she is asked to blow into the breath-analyser. If the result shows over 30 milligrams, the vehicle is seized and the motorist is produced in court.

“Mostly the offender is asked to pay a fine of Rs. 2,000 and sometimes the licence is suspended. Repeated violations can lead to an arrest and a cancellation of the licence,” said a police officer.

But traffic police officers say they can book more cases, and thereby prevent more accidents, if they are given more breath analysers.

“At present, we have around 70 devices. We need around 230 more,” said a traffic police officer.

Under the current system, only the traffic police are given breath analysers. The law and order police, who also check for drunken driving, have no choice but to ask motorists to blow into their faces.

“Then, if they suspect the motorist is drunk, they send him/her to the traffic police where a breath analyser is used. It would be much better and easier if they too are provided with the devices,” said the officer.

Another police officer said that the equipment they had, was also not maintained well. “We have been asked to intensify a crackdown on drunken driving. So it is essential that the devices’ monitors and printers are serviced properly,” said a traffic police officer.

However, traffic police officials said they were in the process of procuring more analysers. “Orders have been placed for 100 more analysers. We are also looking at other advanced equipment to curb drunken driving,” an official said.

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