Driving laws are tightening up as winter deepens and lockdown loosens, and South African roads are set to become truly zero-tolerance soon.

The age-old practise of “one (alcoholic drink) for the road” will either become ancient history or a real threat to your safety, your driver’s licence and car insurance.

Warned of in January, and reported in Business Tech recently, existing laws are getting a mid-year update. The new traffic rule is one hundred percent zero tolerance towards the level of alcohol in your blood if you are behind the wheel.


Zero chance of escape

In the terse words of Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula, this means the Law requires exactly “no alcohol in the blood – and the Law is going to bite with regard to that”. That makes even a fraction of a drop illegal for anyone handling a car on the road.

The link between alcohol consumption and traffic accidents is a strong one.


The numbers don’t lie

Business Tech notes that Police Minister, Bheki Cele, reported over 24,000 people arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol over the 2019-2020 festive season.

Arrive Alive reports “research indicates that 50% of people who die on the roads have a blood alcohol concentration above 0.05 gram per 100 millilitres”.


The rules right now

Arrive Alive further notes that the current limit allows a measure of alcohol. At the time of writing, this is defined as “a concentration of alcohol in blood: 0,05 gram per 100 millilitres for ordinary drivers, and for professional drivers, 0,02 gram per 100 millilitres. It cites breath alcohol content at 0,24 milligrams per 1,000 millilitres for non-professional drivers and for those who drive for work, 0,10 milligrams per 1,000 millilitres.


A threat to your life, your licence and your insurance

Driving with blood alcohol content above zero percent once the act is passed will have implications for your road safety, your relationship with the Law and your insurance provider.

Business Tech highlights that motor insurance providers can legally refuse to honour accident claims if drivers are over the legal alcohol limit, a right included in almost all car cover policies in the country.

Not only could this result in a cancellation of your claim, but it could also raise your insurance premiums. If you’re convicted of drunk driving and have your licence temporarily taken away, your policy could also be cancelled outright. This would leave you with no cover for your car at all, even if it’s standing still in your garage, gathering cobwebs.


When does ‘dry’ driving start?

The bill is a signature away from being law, The South African reports. It was formally put in motion on 1 June 2020 when the Transport Minister introduced this National Road Traffic Amendment Bill to Parliament. It must now be presented to the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces for consideration in order to be passed, after which the bill will be referred to the President to sign. Given the pandemic and current lockdown level 3, it is uncertain when exactly this will take place.


Stay safe while sipping

Get ahead of the curve by adopting your own zero-tolerance practises to driving and alcohol now:

• Ask to stay over if you’re at friends and you’ve had any alcohol at all.
• Arrange alternative transport when boozing and travelling or commuting.
• Check that the driver is one hundred percent sober, as well, and knows about the new law.
• Make a habit of drinking alcohol-free cider and non-alcoholic mocktails. Excellent bars, hotels and liquor stores offer loads of options, and many of the better products taste like the real thing!

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