The Automobile Association of South Africa has said that drinking and driving can be more effectively combated by reducing the allowable alcohol limits for drivers, and that the courts should impose tougher sentences on drink / drive offenders.
AASA Head of Public Affairs, Rob Handfield – Jones, said that although South Africa’s current Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit of 0.05% was not out of line with world standards, the crisis on South Africa’s roads demanded a tougher approach. The AA is proposing that the 0.05% limit be reduced to 0.02%. “The AA has conducted numerous research projects into the effects of alcohol on driving,” he said. “And, without exception, each one has proven that drivers are already significantly impaired at the 0.05% limit. We are concerned that this limit is inappropriate in South Africa where one is 14 times more likely to die in a traffic crash than in the USA,” he added.
The BAC limit for drivers driving under the terms of a Professional Driving Permit (PrDP) is already 0.02%, but when driving in a non-PrDP capacity, they are subject to the 0.05% limit. “The AA fully agrees with the 0.02% limit for professional drivers,” said Handfield – Jones. “This allows some leeway for medications which contain alcohol, but still emphasises that one alcoholic drink puts you over the limit. The mixed message of having a different limit for ordinary drivers is impeding the fight against drunkenness on our roads,” he explained.
Past studies have suggested that as many as half of all South African driver fatalities have alcohol in their bloodstreams, with the majority of these in excess of the 0.05% limit. The AA said that alcohol was just one of many factors which combine to make a traffic crash more likely. “The more risk factors we can eliminate from the roads, the safer they’ll become,” said Handfield – Jones. “Despite numerous efforts over the past ten years, there has not been a wide-scale decline in the social acceptability of drinking and driving, yet over the same period, smokers have gone from being perfectly acceptable to social pariahs. The difference is one of political will,” he added.
The AA said that the law provided for a maximum fine of R120 000 / 6 years in jail, but noted that such a sentence had never been imposed. It said that if jail terms were handed down for drinking and driving, the public would become more sensitised to the issue. The AA also called for the fight against drinking and driving to be stepped up on a national level, with greater enforcement and wider use of evidentiary breath-testing machines. “Drivers who ensure they are sober will have nothing to fear, but those who drink will then be removed from the roads before they can cause harm,” Handfield – Jones concluded.
Automobile Association of South Africa (AA)
011 799 1180