Despite numerous initiatives and campaigns, it would appear that the fight against drunk driving is nowhere near the desired outcome we seek as ordinary, law abiding road users.
I am often asked regarding the current legal position and in particular the limits applicable to the consumption of alcohol whilst driving.
In short, Section 65(2) of the National Road Traffic Act makes it an offence to drive a motor vehicle or even be in the driver’s seat of a vehicle with the engine running when a sample of your blood is not:
LESS than 0.05g/100ml of blood sampled for an ordinary driver; or
LESS than 0.02g/100ml of blood sampled if you are a Professional Driving Permit (PrDP) holder.
Furthermore, Section 65(4) provides that it is an offence to drive a motor vehicle or be in the driver’s seat of a vehicle with the engine running when a sample of your breath is not:
LESS than 0.24mg/1000ml of breath sampled for an ordinary driver; or
LESS than 0.10/1000ml of breath sampled if you are a Professional Driving Permit (PrDP) holder.
At present the sanction for a contravention of either of the above legal limits may result in a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 6 (six) years. In addition, the Court may also suspend your driving license for a period ranging from 6 (six) months up to 10 (ten) years. Of course, should your conduct result in the death of another motorist or pedestrian you will be charged with either culpable homicide or murder which offences hold much more severe sanctions. Although, the Law is clear in so far as the content of your blood alcohol and breath alcohol content is concerned the question inevitably becomes how much alcohol can I consume in order to remain under the accepted limit? Unfortunately, there is no way to accurately answer a question of this nature as each person’s body will react differently to the amounts and types of alcohol they consume. The best possible way to avoid any contravention of the law remains to never drive after you have consumed alcohol no matter the quantity.A further important question is the use of medication whilst driving and which medication often contains alcohol and whether or not this would be a criminal offence. Although, certain medications do in fact contain alcohol, the fact of the matter is that the content thereof is more often than not of such a low dosage that you are unlikely to feel the effects thereof. However, should it occur that your blood alcohol content would be over the prescribed minimum levels the State would be in a position to charge you with the offence of driving under the influence of alcohol.In cases where medication is being used it is therefore of the utmost importance that patients enquire from and are advised by their Doctors and pharmacists of the content of their medication and in particular the effects that same may have on their driving abilities. A driver may very well find himself in hot water where he drives a motor vehicle whilst on medication which reduces his ability to properly drive a motor vehicle. In this regard it is important to note that Section 65 provides that it is an offence to drive a motor vehicle whilst under the influence of a drug having a narcotic effect.Owing to the high incidences of drunk driving in our country there would appear to be a renewed drive from the side of Government to implement harsher penalties for drunk driving matters, especially where these cases result in road traffic accidents. Early indications are that the desired result would be for driver’s to be refused bail and sentenced to a minimum of 2 (two) years imprisonment where they are found to have caused collisions due to being over the current legal limit.
Furthermore, all indications are that Government intends to reduce the acceptable level alcohol in your blood, whilst driving a motor vehicle to, 0.0g/100ml.Although the proposed sanctions may at first glance appear to be harsh I think we would all agree that each and every licensed road user owes his fellow drivers a duty of care and is it my opinion that until we implement harsher road traffic penalties in order to deter unwanted behaviour that the scenes of carnage we are faced with as South Africans on our roads is set to continue.