Kenyan High Court gives green light to drink-drivers

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Kenyan drinkers, staggering from the bar to their car, have been relieved to learn that a court has suspended the use of breathalysers a few weeks after police began using them.

A judge at the High Court in Nairobi ruled this week that the police should stop using the Alcoblow device for 30 days until the matter of their legality is settled. The ruling comes after a group of drivers took their protest to court, saying their careers and lifestyles had been harmed by the new breathalysers, which are set to detect a blood alcohol level equivalent to two and half bottles of Tusker beer.

Two men, Albert Cege and Elam Etono, argued that it was a crucial part of their jobs to have a drink with clients, and that the drink-driving limits were arbitrary.

Another businessman, Kenneth Wanjobi Gachira, took action against the police after he spent the whole night at a bar in early December. He claimed that he was too afraid to go home in case he was stopped and harassed by police demanding a bribe.

Last year, 3,000 fatal road traffic accidents were recorded in Kenya - a startling statistic for a country where the vast majority of the population do not use cars. The police began to use breathalysers over the Christmas season but most citizens have greeted the clampdown with suspicion, believing that the new gadgets are simply a way for a corrupt police force to extract yet more bribes from motorists.

Drinkers texted each other suggestions of how to mask the alcohol by eating bananas, antacid powder, toothpaste or copper coins. The court will meet again on 22 February to decide whether breathalysers violate the constitutional rights of Kenyans.

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