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HK launches random breath tests to fight drink driving
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Hong Kong traffic police launched random breath tests early Monday under a legislative change that went into effect on the same day.

A senior police officer said a total of nearly 200 vehicles were stopped for random tests at eight places by 6:30 a.m. and that most of the drivers were cooperative.

The move to fight drink driving generally went smoothly and normal procedures took only three minutes, Eva Cheng, Secretary for Transport and Housing of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government said upon witnessing the tests.

Under the Road Traffic Legislation (Amendment) Ordinance, effective from Monday, officers were given the right to stop drivers for random breath tests anywhere.

The ordinance also stipulates tougher punishments for drink- driving. First-time offenders may face disqualification for driving for at least three months, while further offenses will lead to disqualification for at least two years.

Drink-drivers could also face up to three years in jail and a fine of up to 25,000 HK dollars (3,205 U.S. dollar).

Hong Kong has seen several deadly traffic accidents recently, with one of them on Jan. 23 in southern Hong Kong claiming six lives. A driver involved in the accident was reportedly suspect of drink driving.

Police found 1,490 cases of drink-driving out of 39,000 tests in 2008, in contrast to 1,300 to 1,400 cases found out of 42,000 tests in the previous two years.

Cheng has said the HKSAR government would monitor the effect of the random tests, adding that even tougher punishments could be considered for drink-driving.

(Xinhua News Agency February 9, 2009)

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