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New zero limit for drink-driving introduced

By Staff Writer
The Department of Transport (DoT) wants to ban drivers who have drunk alcohol from getting behind the wheel. If the department gets its way it means that no alcohol must pass the lips of a driver.
 
The current law allows drivers to have up to 0.05g of alcohol per 100ml of blood, or 0.02g/100ml for professional drivers. This equates to one glass of wine, or one beer.
 
According to South Africans Against Drunk Driving (SADD), alcohol abuse is behind about 65% of South Africa's approximately 20 000 yearly deaths and 150 000 injuries.
 
In addition, research indicates that 50% of people who die on the roads have a blood alcohol concentration above 0.05 gram per 100 millilitres, highlighted the Arrive Alive website.
 
"SADD feel a zero alcohol level is appropriate for South Africa to bring down our absolutely unacceptable road carnage, and the belief that it is acceptable to drink, then drive," said Caro Smit founder and director of SADD.
 
Is a lower limit better?
 
Some believe that lowering the limit is not the problem, but the implementation of the law itself.
 
"Our alcohol level would not need to be lowered if we followed the examples of 1st world countries and implemented our National Road Traffic Act, and if the Departments of Transport, Justice, and the SAPS worked optimally and saw drink driving as a serious crime that they concentrated on," said Smit.
 
Smit added that people's behaviour only changes when they are afraid of the legal and financial implications of their actions.
 
"That is - losing their license after a drink driving conviction, or going to jail," said Smit.
More than 15 years ago the blood alcohol level was lowered from <0.08g to <0.05g, and the death and injury rate has increased, according to Smit.
 
The amendments
 
The amendments states that "no person shall on a public road- (a) drive a vehicle; or (b) occupy the driver's seat of a motor vehicle the engine of which is running, while there is concentration of alcohol in any specimen of blood taken from any part of his or her body," said the Draft National Road Traffic Amendment Bill.
 
However, there is no mention of people who are on certain medication, or diabetics, for example, who can provide false-negatives with both a breathalyser test, and a blood test.
 
"It is clearly marked on all medicines with any alcohol on them that the person should be aware that alcohol impairs driving skills, and they should not drive. In addition they should not operate heavy machinery. SADD also accept that the body can produce trace elements of alcohol," said Smit.
 
*The Department of Transport was not available for comment at the time of publication.

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