Drivers unafraid to hit bottle and then the road
Arrive Alive is worried that SA drivers don't fear the consequences of drunk driving
South Africans are not afraid of drinking and driving.
As the festive season gets into full swing, Arrive Alive is concerned that many local drivers won’t fear the consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol.
This is backed by a 2017 global study by beer label Heineken, which surveyed 10,000 drivers who consume alcohol at least once a month in countries like SA, Brazil, China, India, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, the UK, the US and Vietnam.
SA, it found, has the highest prevalence of drunk driving among all of the countries surveyed.
The research was conducted to understand the behavioural triggers that cause people to drink and drive, and made some worrying findings when it came to SA road users.
It showed that nearly eight in nine drivers (87%) have driven after consuming alcohol, much higher than the global average of 68%.
The study further found that one in two drivers claimed to have driven while unsure whether they were within the legal alcohol consumption limit.
It also showed that 84% of drivers found at least one situation where it is acceptable to drink and drive, compared with the worldwide average of 77%.
With drunk driving being one of the leading causes of road deaths in SA, especially during the holidays, the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), has proposed tougher action against deviant motorists, including making them making them spend at least seven days behind bars before they can be considered for bail.
The RTMC wants the department of justice to change driving under the influence from a schedule 2 to a schedule 5 offence – in the same category as serious crimes such as murder.
In 2017, 14,750 recorded road accidents cost R172bn – for medical treatment and insurance claims – a R9bn rise from 2016.
An observational study, published in medical journal The Lancet, found that changing the legal drink-driving limit without enhancing enforcement and sufficiently publishing the change, didn’t reduce road traffic accidents.
The study compared accident rates in Scotland and Wales before and after the new limit was introduced.
“Road users need to have fear of consequence – they need to know there is a good chance of getting caught and little chance of getting away without strict punishment if found guilty of driving under the influence,” said advocate Johan Jonck, Arrive Alive spokesperson.
He believes it is important that SA has a blood-alcohol and breath-measure standard.
The legal limit for the concentration of alcohol in blood is 0,05 grams per 100 millilitres, while the breath alcohol content is 0,24 milligrams per 1000 millilitres.
“We can have the best alcohol standard – which compares well with the rest of the world – but if not supported by awareness on why it is so dangerous to drink and drive, effectively enforced through regular moving roadblocks and blitzes and supported with effective judicial processes, it will not significantly improve driving behaviour,” added Jonck.