Zero alcohol drunk driving rules mean no dinking for drivers whatsoever
“Having even one drink and getting behind the wheel holds the
possibility of real jail time this silly season,” warns Christelle Colman,
Spokesperson for Old Mutual Insure. Very shortly too, that one drink will also
see “drivers’ insurance claims rejected,” she adds.
Amendments to Section 65 of the National Road Traffic Act effectively
changes the legal blood alcohol content limit for drivers from 0.05 grams per
100 millilitres to 0.00 grams per 100 millilitres. The permitted breath alcohol
concentration will change from 0.24 grams per 1000 millilitres also to zero.
Since the insurance industry cannot apply policies in conflict with the law,
reducing the blood alcohol limit to zero means that, “once this amendment is
gazetted (?) any motor policy holder found to have been driving with even trace
elements of alcohol in their blood will be uninsured,” says Colman.
With South Africa suffering, on average, over 13000 deaths a year from motor
accidents it is very clear that something needs to be done. As such, Colman is
also encouraged to see that the new zero alcohol levels are to be supported by
proper enforcement. Police have, for example, announced that roadblocks will be
in force throughout the country on the, “15, 16, 23, 24, 30 and 31 December
2020, including Fridays through to Sundays during the holiday period,” reports
Colman. Once the amendment becomes law, vehicles of drivers with even trace
elements of alcohol in their blood will be impounded and only returned after a
R2000 fine – if all fines are up to date. If drivers are arrested over the
weekend, cases will only be processed on the first Monday morning thereafter, “presenting
anyone with even limited levels of alcohol in their system with the prospect of
real jail time this December,” warns Colman.
While it is hoped that proper enforcement will contribute to reducing
road death numbers, “the new legislation also has serious implications for
South African motor policy holders,” says Colman. If motor policy holders are
involved in an accident after even one drink, “they won’t only be facing the
prospect of jail time but will also find themselves uninsured. Once the Amendment
to Section 65 is law, insurers will reject accident claims outright regardless
of the levels of alcohol in the blood,” says Colman. While strict by global
standards, it is very clear that South Africa needs to begin to take its road
death figures, and effective road safety enforcement, much more seriously.
Colman hopes that this is a first step in regaining control of our roads and
improving the safety of driving in South Africa in general.
The new legislation will also help remove confusion around at what blood
alcohol level driving ability is actually impaired. Individuals metabolise
alcohol very differently. There has always been confusion about what level of
blood alcohol causes impairment. “Zero alcohol removes this confusion
entirely,” adds Colman. Since drugs are also a factor in South Africa’s road
death figures, Colman also warns that, “an insurance claim can be rejected if a
driver is believed to have acted in a reckless manner and this behaviour is
believed to be the cause of damage or destruction to a vehicle.” As such, drug
users who think they can evade roadblocks testing for alcohol, should also be
aware that poor driving or negligence may also see insurance claims rejected.
With a limited curfew in place and most people cautious about socialising
due to a second wave of Covid-19, South Africa stands a good chance of reducing
its road death figures this silly season. Motorists are also advised to make
use of the value-add services provided by their insurer. “Most reputable
insurers offer a number of value-added services that typically includes a
limited number of Drive-Me-Home rides that can be prearranged before a night
out,” explains Colman. The increasing use of Uber and other mobile ride-hailing
servicers also provides a generally accessible alternative to driving with
alcohol in your blood. These services are there to help policyholders avoid
drinking and driving while having a good time. Motorists are encouraged to use
them, not only to save lives, but also “ensure that insurance policies remain
valid in the event of accident this silly season,” says Colman.
While visible and ubiquitous physical policing combined with effective
prosecution are key to reducing South Africa’s unacceptably high road death
rates, the increasing use of digital tracking and surveillance across the full
range of devices and platforms that drivers use means that “the insurance
industry is also much more able to monitor and observe the kind of poor or
erratic driving that may indicate drug or alcohol use,” said Colman. It is
expected that this technology will also, in time, go a long way to helping
independently tackle what is, in South Africa, an acute crisis requiring
coordinated intervention,” concludes Colman.
courtesy of FAnews, written by Christelle Colmon, spokesperson for Old Mutual