Woman calls for action against ‘drunk driver’

The accident scene.

An Imhoff’s Gift woman feels “let down” by the police after they failed to have blood drawn from an alleged drunk driver who crashed into her.

Two months have passed since the incident and although a case of reckless and negligent driving has been opened at the Ocean View police station, the driver has still not been charged.

According to Susan Schalk, she had a narrow escape on Sunday December 2 after a double-cab bakkie driving at a high speed swerved into oncoming traffic in front of her on Kommetjie Road near Harry Goemans Garden Centre. If she had not swerved out of the way the bakkie would have collided head-on with her Nissan X-Trail. But instead, it hit the back of her vehicle, rolled a few times and landed upside down on the side of the road.

“I was in such shock after it happened and just sat in the car for a few seconds wondering if I was dead or alive,” she said.

The bakkie carried four passengers and the driver had to be pulled from the vehicle by the fire department.

Ms Schalk said it was clear from the driver’s behaviour that he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. She called her son, who rushed to the scene, and he too had agreed that the driver was under the influence of alcohol.

Harry Goemans Garden Centre, she said, provided her with CCTV footage of the crash.

Ocean View police spokesman, Sergeant Leon Fortuin, said the driver of the bakkie had been injured and confused. He had to be taken to False Bay hospital.

“He was not arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol nor was a blood sample taken,” he said.

Ms Schalk said she was furious that no action had been taken against the driver.

“I want to know if he had a licence and if he is still driving and if so, why?” she said.

“Thank goodness there were no cyclists or pedestrians out there on the road that day.”

According to Fish Hoek lawyer Mark Owen the general procedure after an accident where people have been injured and vehicles damaged is for the police to establish whether any of the drivers showed signs of being under the influence of alcohol.

If a suspected drunk driver needs to be hospitalised, the police can request that blood be drawn from the person. But that must happen within two hours of the accident, using a special kit with serial numbers to ensure the integrity of the results.

Depending on the circumstances, the driver can be charged with either driving under the influence of alcohol, according to section 65(1) of the Road Traffic Act or driving a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level in excess of the prescribed limit, according to section 65(2) of the Road Traffic Act. They can also be charged with reckless or negligent driving.

The first charge, according to Mr Owen, does not require blood to be drawn and, usually, the State relies on witness testimony to prove the driver’s reactions were impaired by alcohol.

The alternative charge is easier to prove because it uses a blood specimen to prove the driver was over the legal limit.

According to Mr Owen, police who suspect a driver is under the influence of alcohol, can ask for blood to be drawn. But he cautions that many factors can play a role – for instance, the driver could have left the scene before the police arrived – and one should not automatically assume police negligence.

Once the docket is with a prosecutor, he says, it’s up to them to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to pursue the case.

Sergeant Fortuin said the docket in Ms Schalk’s case was with the state prosecutor.

Ms Schalk said she would not let the matter go.

“I’m just grateful that I didn’t die. I’m a wife, a mother, a grandmother and a friend and that could have been ripped away from my loved ones due to the negligence of someone else,” she said.