Be proactive with your health and safety

By Staff Writer
Christmas is just around the corner, and at this time of year that last thing on many people’s minds is insurance and medical aid cover. However, if you are planning to hit the road this festive season, whether to drive to your holiday destination, or just locally, these are things that you should consider.
The South African Insurance Association (SAIA) noted that the latest Global Status report on Road Safety for 2015 by the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that South Africa has more drunk driving related deaths than anywhere else in the world. As much as 58% of deaths are alcohol related.
You do not have to be the drunk driver to be related in an alcohol related death. If another driver on the road is driving drunk and hits into your car or another vehicle on the road where the driver of that car is sober, that is still an alcohol related death.
If you have a blood alcohol level that is more than 0.05 grams per 100 milliliters or a breath alcohol content of more than 0.24 milligrams per 1 000 milliliters, you are over the legal limit. This equates to one unit of alcohol per hour. The Automobile Association of South Africa(AA) explained that in layman’s terms this equates to:
  • Two thirds of a beer or spirit cooler with five percent alcohol content.
  • 75ml of red or white wine per hour with an alcohol content of 12% to 14%.
  • For those who drink whisky or brandy it is equal to one 25ml tot per hour.
“As we approach the 2015/16 holiday season, a time when drunk driving fatalities historically spike, it must be top of mind for all motorists that drinking and driving is simply not an option, as motorists literally hold their lives and the lives of other road users in their hands,” said Dawie Buys, manager of insurance risks at SAIA.
The cause for road deaths in South Africa
According to the report, a person has a 26.6% chance of dying in a road accident in Africa. “South Africa remains one of the more dangerous countries for road safety, with 25.1 deaths per 100 000 population. The report noted, however, that there has been a steady improvement in danger levels since a peak of 33 deaths per 100 000 people, recorded in 2006,” explained Buys.
There are a number of causes of road accidents, not only in South Africa but around the world. Between 80 and 90% of road crashes are thought be as a result of driver behaviour, which includes driver errors or mistakes, as well as driver recklessness and driver inattention.
“Apart from alcohol abuse, the major causes for fatal road accidents are speeding, not wearing seatbelts, no child restraints and no helmets for motorcyclists,” highlighted SAIA.
The impact of drunk driving and the enforcement of the law
“The insurance industry currently insures around R46 billion worth of cars, with70% of motor claims being accident-related and in the majority of all accidents, alcohol plays a role. Despite whether motorists have extensive motor insurance cover, if they drink and drive and this is proven, they will not be able to claim for damages and will be held liable for their own financial loss, as well as that of the person or vehicle affected,” stressed Buys.
Despite South Africa having laws against drunk driving, these are not being strictly enforced by law enforcement officials, according to the WHO report, which graded South Africa four out of ten in its capacity to enforce the laws regarding drunk driving. The enforcement laws regarding speeding was graded even lower receiving three out of ten, and seatbelt law enforcement ranked the lowest at two out of ten.
“Real action from our law enforcers is necessary. If the drink driving law is properly enforced, as has been done in the UK, US and Australia, we will see results,” stated Buys.
For more information on the impact of drunk driving on your insurance, click here.
Have medical protection this festive season
The notorious increase in road deaths over the festive season means that now is the time to stop procrastinating and get medical cover to ensure that if you are involved in a road incident and there are medical costs, you are prepared and will not be in a difficult financial situation in trying to cover the possibly expensive hospital and medical treatment fees.
According to the South African Road Federation, the festive season last year saw 1 118 fatal crashes leading to 1 368 deaths from the beginning of December 2014 to 1 January 2015. However, it is not just the fatalities associated with these incidents, there are often many more injuries as a result of these accidents, which result in (often costly) medical bills.
“Aside from road crashes, people also hurt themselves skiing, putting up lights, tripping over new toys – the so-called silly season is ‘silly’ for a reason. Having the appropriate health cover in place means that you can sit back and relax during the holidays, and begin the New Year on a positive note,” said professor Roseanne Murphy da Silva, president-elect of the Actuarial Society of South Africa (ASISA) and adjunct professor in the school of Statistics and Actuarial Science at Wits University.
There are many reasons that people give for not having medical cover, these include that they are young and healthy, or they are too old to take out medical cover, as well as the excuse of it being too expensive, or they have a pre-existing condition.
However, these should not stop you from getting medical cover which could help reduce the stress of the situation, if you are involved in an accident.
While you may believe that you are wasting money paying your monthly medical cover contribution, if you are involved in a serious accident or suffer an injury playing sport, the costs involved could be much higher than your monthly contribution, and your medical aid scheme may cover a lot of the expenses for you, meaning that you don’t have to fork out money to cover the cost yourself.
Murphy de Silva provided the below example to highlight the need for proper medical cover: “Take a young and healthy male belonging to a standard medical scheme option. His monthly contributions amount to R1 800, meaning he pays R21 600 in a year. 
“This individual suffers a sports-related knee injury that requires surgery. With private hospital bills, specialist and anaesthetist fees, crutches, specialised ice-packs and knee braces, the financial costs of this injury paid by his medical aid totals a whopping R48 100.
“He is still liable for a co-payment of R5 200 towards the specialist’s fees, bringing his medical spending for the year to R26 800. This means that in this year, he has actually saved R21 300, excluding other added benefits he has gained from his scheme such as doctors’ visits, scans and medication.”
Being young and health does not protect you against the possibility of a road accident, in fact, Murphy da Silva noted that it increases your chances of having an accident.
Having a pre-existing condition does not prevent you from taking out medical cover, you will however, have a waiting period before the medical aid scheme will pay for the costs related to the specific condition.
“Life is filled with many uncertainties, and seizing the opportunity to make sure that your health is not one of them will make a fantastic gift to yourself and your family this festive season,” said Murphy da Silva.
Tips to keep you safe this festive season
“The consequences of driving while under the influence are far reaching, and the effects impact not only impaired drivers, but many, many others,” emphasised Buys.
To help keep you, your family and others on the road safe this festive season, Buys offered the below tips:
  • Prior to any drinking, arrange a non-drinking driver.
  • If you have been drinking, call a taxi. Alternatively make use of the driving assist cover provided by many insurers, which arranges for you to be taken home by a driver of a service provider contracted by them.
  • Don’t let your friends drive impaired. Take their keys away.
Furthermore, if you are hosting a party this festive season and alcohol will be served, be a responsible host and remind guests to plan ahead for their drive home by having a designated driver or arranging for a take-me-home service or taxi to pick them up. You can also offer alcohol-free beverages and ensure that all of your guests leave with a sober driver. If you are wanting to take it a step further, you can provide breathalysers to allow your guests to check their breath alcohol content and ensure that they are safe to drive home.
For more information on how to get home after a night out, click here.

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