Two sides to the drinking and driving debate

Alcohol is one of the leading causes of road deaths worldwide, and South Africa follows world trends in this respect.  It seems logical, therefore, that lowering the maximum permissible blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for drivers would contribute towards reducing fatal drinking and driving accidents.  It appears that this isn’t necessarily the case and public discussion on this debate has been prompted by the Department of Transport’s (DOT) proposed amendment to legal BAC.

New drinking and driving limits

The DOT’s proposed amendment to the National Road Traffic Amendment Act, 1996, would lower the maximum permissible BAC for drivers from the current 0.05g per 100ml to 0.02g per 100ml of blood.  This could equate to less than a can of beer, one shot of whisky or 75ml of wine, depending on the person’s physiology. 

Western Cape Transport MEC Robin Carlisle has been widely reported as saying that “when you bring the limit down so much, other factors can play a role, so the smaller you make the interval, the higher the chance that other factors can play a role. This could lead to fewer rather than more prosecutions as test results might have unintended consequences.”

The Automobile Association (AA) of SA supports the new drinking and driving limits, saying that their research shows that drivers are already significantly impaired at a BAC of 0.05.  They believe that a limit of 0.02g allows some leeway for medications that contain alcohol.

Drinking and driving tests pick up any BAC levels

Michael Crossland of PSA (Pty) Ltd, which supplies breath alcohol testing instruments to industry and the SAPS had this to say:  “We support any initiative that would lower drinking and driving related deaths on our roads and trust that the authorities evaluating the current legal limits will make the right decision in this regard.

“The Lifeloc instruments which we supply countrywide are specific to alcohol and boast extreme accuracy, making them perfectly suitable to both the current limits and the proposed new limits.  These instruments measure from zero percent alcohol upwards, and won’t require any modification should the limits change.  They will pick up any level of alcohol in the user’s system,” said Crossland.