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Drinking and driving

April 2018

#fines #accidents #dui #drinkingdriving #2018

Philip Swanepoel (BA Law, LLB, LLM)

Driving whilst being under the influence of alcohol is a major problem in South Africa with the country rating first for the amount of drunk driving incidents in the world. The Automobile Association further reports that 50% of people who die on South African roads are over the legal alcohol limit. This major problem is exaggerated by the lack of adequate public transport in many parts of South Africa, thus "forcing" people to drive after social events in the evenings or requiring people to nominate a "designated driver". This article will accordingly discuss the blood alcohol limit in South Africa and will aim to establish how much one can legally drink before driving in order to disperse with some of the uncertainties and myths surrounding this subject.

The current legal limit is a breath-alcohol content of 0.24mg per 1 000ml‚ or a blood alcohol limit of 0.05g per 100ml. This is an extremely low limit and even having one small drink might mean that you have breached the limit. SAB has thus stated that "[t]he rule of thumb is a maximum of one unit of alcohol per hour‚ which constitutes 10ml of pure alcohol‚ based on an adult weighing 68kg". This translates into one being able to drink two-thirds of a beer or cider with 5% alcohol content per hour. Those who prefer wine will be able to drink 75ml per hour if the wine has an alcohol content of between 12% and 14%, or those who prefer spirits such as whisky and brandy will be able to drink one serving of 25ml per hour. 1

It is important to note that the South African Police Service has adopted a zero-tolerance policy regarding drinking and driving. South Africans can thus expect road blocks and other checks in order to police drunk driving, especially over festive periods. Police can arrest you if you are caught driving whilst being over the limit. You could then face a minimum fine of R2000.00 or a two-year prison sentence, or both. You could furthermore lose your drivers licence and also get a criminal record, both of which can negatively affect your travel and career prospects.

It is clear from the above that South Africa has a very low alcohol limit with severe consequences for non-compliance. The AA thus advises that it is best to simply not drink at all before driving. One could then potentially make use of services such as Uber which is proving to be a good alternative to traditional forms of public transport.


1Please note that the suggestions regarding amounts of alcohol which can be consumed whilst staying under the legal limit as discussed in this article is purely guidelines which have not been independently verified. Name and Shame thus accepts no liability in this regard. It is furthermore important to note that factors such as body size will greatly influence this.




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