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Some 20 people were invited to a party at metro police headquarters in downtown Jozi, where they were plied with alcohol. Not a fun bash, it was a serious exercise to highlight the risk of drinking and driving.

IN a bid to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving, the Johannesburg metro police department (JMPD) this weekend held a party for drivers at their offices on Loveday Street, in the city centre.

"The aim of the exercise was to inform us and drivers out there about the amount of alcohol that people consume at parties and the behavioural changes thereafter," says Edna Mamonyane, a JMPD spokesperson.

Held on Saturday, 8 November, it involved a diverse group of people from different backgrounds. "We simulated a company party on the day," she explains.

"We had 20 men and women - lawyers, receptionists and managers of different body sizes - whom we supplied with all kinds of alcoholic beverages - whiskey, wine, ciders and beers."

Mamonyane says the JMPD officers kept a record of all drinks consumed by the "party animals".

"We had one 30-year-old man who had six double tots of whiskey but wanted to have more. He kept arguing that he could still have more and drive safely home, but he was way above the limit."

And there was a 19-year-old woman who weighted more than 80 kilograms who took six ciders and one double tot of whiskey.

"When we tested her on the alcohol testing machine, the results showed that her alcohol content was under the limit, but she was very, very drunk. What we can interpret as the JMPD from this is that people can slip through our net when they are drunk and fatalities may occur on our roads."

The results of the data collected at the party will be released to companies this week so that they can put them up on their websites, says Mamonyane.

"We want to promote responsible drinking at all end-of-year functions. Companies can contact the JMPD to get a graph for their employees to compare themselves to the test respondents."

The simulation exercise comes after the JMPD unveiled its eight new Dräger Intoximeters, which analyse the breath of a person driving under the influence immediately.

The machines are housed in the new Alcohol Evidential Test Centre at the JMPD offices in Loveday Street. The centre and machines will be rolled out for the first time on Saturday, 8 November.

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