Alcohol and road use needs new strategy - AA

New strategies are required to combat alcohol use by road users. This is according to the Automobile Association (AA), which said that tougher action was needed. "The current strategy has not yielded results," the AA said.

The Association said that the Department of Transport could not rely on gradual changes in social attitudes to alcohol and road use, commenting that these did not happen fast enough to prevent a substantial number of road deaths.

"Despite changes in social attitudes, the rate of positive tests for alcohol in people killed in traffic crashes rose sharply in the first decade of the new millennium," the AA commented. "This suggests that many road users are escaping both the enforcement and messaging nets when it comes to alcohol."

Licensing corruption was highlighted as a potential contributor to the problem. The AA said that a driver who bought or forged their licence had started their driving career in an unlawful way. "Such drivers are less likely to understand their legal responsibilities on the roads and they may not be fully aware of the risks of drinking and driving."

The AA said that the current level of enforcement was not adequate for the scale of the problem. Approximately 3000 cases of driving under the influence are opened each month, against a driving population believed to be greater than nine million. "The enforcement rate for alcohol is very low in comparison to the driving population and known rates of alcohol use by road users," the Association said. 

"A nationwide strategy for enforcement is needed, and every major roadblock should routinely include secondary roadblocks on surrounding 'back roads' which drivers may use for avoidance."

Lack of detailed data was also hampering the ability to address alcohol and road use, the AA said. "An example is information on drinking rates by age group no meaningful data exists from 2000 onwards which could provide answers," the AA commented. "Part of a new approach would be to urgently commission more detailed alcohol offence rate surveys to update existing data."

Ongoing research was also needed to determine the effectiveness of alcohol messaging. "South Africa's population is extraordinarily diverse in terms of cultures, languages and education levels," the Association commented. "Our concern is whether all South Africans have access to information on alcohol and traffic in a form they can both understand and use," the AA continued. "Pedestrians in particular have a history of high rates of alcohol use, and further efforts must be made to reach this group."

The AA did not believe that addressing the problems of licensing corruption, enforcement, statistics and messaging was beyond the financial ability of government. "It is possible that re-prioritising existing spend would be adequate in most cases," the Association commented. "What is needed is a plan."

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