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Drinking and driving in South Africa – what you need to know

Its all Insurance

Posted on Wednesday, December 6, 2017

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South African law enforcement has a zero-tolerance approach to drunk driving and as the busy holiday season looms ever closer, the police and other state and provincial authorities are ramping up their vigilance. There’s simply no excuse for getting behind the wheel after a few too many with the increased awareness around the consequences and the emergence of driver-for-hire companies to get people home safely. The message is clear: “No one is trying to stop you having a good time – just be responsible about it!”

What is the drink drive limit?

According to the latest information on the South African Police Service website, your blood may not have alcohol content of more than 0.05% if you are driving. What does this mean? Depending on your height, weight and metabolism, you could be over the limit after having more than 350ml of beer, or more than a single tot of brandy or other spirit. Remember that alcohol will remain in your system for up to eight hours after consumption.

Avoid going over the legal drink drive limit

Your driving skills are impaired after even one unit, depending on many factors of which you, as the driver, may not know, so it is safer not to drink any alcohol at all if you know you are going to be driving. Even when not driving, drink slowly – one unit per hour maximum. Drink plenty of water in between drinks and eat before you crack open the first cold one.

What can you do if you think you are over the limit?

Do not take chances – if you know that you are going to be drinking, plan in advance and arrange alternative transport. There are many options – download the app for Uber and register your account, or book with one of the many companies available to get people home safely, such as Goodfellas, Nite Owl and Scooter Angels, who will drive you home in your own car. 

What happens if you are caught driving under the influence of alcohol?

Official roadblocks are conducted by the South African Police Service (SAPS), Metropolitan Police Departments and other law-enforcement agencies. These checkpoints are there to discourage people from driving when under the influence. If stopped at a roadblock and it’s questionable that you have consumed alcohol, you will be breathalysed. If the breathalyser reveals that you are over the limit, you will be taken for blood tests to confirm your level. Once confirmed, you may be arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence of alcohol (DUI). According to the SAPS website, you will then be held in custody until you are either released on bail or make your first appearance in court. This could mean spending 48 to 72 hours in a holding cell. You will have to appear within 48 hours of being arrested but this time period is extended on weekends as the courts are not open. Imagine being arrested on a Friday night and only appearing in court on Tuesday.

NOTE FROM THE SAPS: Depending on prior convictions against you, as well as the circumstances surrounding your arrest, if caught driving under the influence, you face a minimum fine of R2 000 or a two-year prison sentence, or both. You may also lose your driver's licence or have it suspended. And, of course, you will have a criminal record. A criminal record will affect your career as many employers will not employ people with a criminal record.

According to the Terms and Conditions of Budget’s car insurance policy, Budget does not indemnify you for incidences that occur while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, of any level, or while the percentage of alcohol in the driver’s blood exceeds the legal limit, or when the driver fails a breathalyser test. Budget Insurance is an authorised financial services provider with FSP number 18178.

Be careful, not just this holiday season, but all year around.