Page last updated at 15:21 GMT, Monday, 23 January 2006

Kenya suspends breathalyser tests

A Kenyan police officer tests the alcohol intake of a driver in Nairobi.
Kenya has a high number of fatal road accidents blamed on alcohol

A Kenyan court has suspended the use of new breathalyser tests for suspected drunk drivers after motorists claimed their rights were being breached.

A judge at Nairobi High Court on Monday blocked police from using the "Alcoblow" devices pending inquiries.

Police introduced the unpopular tests in December to tackle the high number of road deaths blamed on alcohol.

But a group of drivers filed a lawsuit saying the tests had not been approved by lawmakers and were unconstitutional.

Binge drinking

Nairobi High Court Justice Joseph Nyamu issued a 30-day restraining order preventing national police from using "Alcoblow" tests pending a study into whether they violate Kenyans' constitutional rights.

"The commissioner of police, traffic commandant and any other police officer... are hereby restrained from Alcoblow or subjecting anyone in the country to the test," Mr Nyamu said in a preliminary ruling on the motorists' lawsuit, the AFP news agency reported.

Correspondents say the breath tests caused an uproar in Kenya, where many consider binge drinking a national sport and driving is often the only way to get home from a party or a bar.

Authorities have faced a worrying number of fatal road accidents in recent years, with 3,000 in 2004. Many of them have been blamed on drunk drivers.

Since police began using the Alcoblow tests last month, hundreds of people have been charged with drink driving and forced to pay hefty fines.

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