Johannesburg - As we dive headlong into what is so aptly known as the Silly Season, and restauranteurs rub their hands in glee at the thought of all those alcohol-fuelled office parties, it's time to think about what happens after the party.
That's when normally responsible colleagues - who can hardly see straight, let alone walk straight - get into their company cars and drive home. And we think nothing of it, until one of them doesn't make it.
Nobody says you shouldn't party at the end of the year - that fact that you still have an office after another year in the trenches is worth celebrating. But when you do, get somebody else to drive you home, and get somebody to drive Happy Harry home as well.
According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation, the majority of road deaths occur between 5pm and 10pm on Fridays Saturdays and Sundays - which is when people are out partying; you don't have to be a rocket scientist to make the connection.
“It's become a ritual at this time of year to warn people about the dangers of drinking and driving,” said an Automobile Association spokesman. “But the message seems to be getting lost; many people still insist on driving themselves home after an alcoholically-fuelled evening - which not only endangers their lives, but those of other road users as well.
'Take me home'
“There really is no excuse for drink driving nowadays,” he said, “with so many reliable, affordable and safe take-me-home services available. If you've been drinking, ask the host to call one of them - and by the same token, companies hosting year-end celebrations need to step up, and not allow workers who've been drinking to drive.”
Traffic authorities around the country increase their efforts at this time of year with more checkpoints and roadblocks, but it's never going to be enough. The AA spokesman pointed out that there are nine million drivers in South Africa - and on average, about 100 of them get busted for drunk driving every night.
That's 3000 cases a month - less than 0.5 percent of all drivers, and given the known rates of alcohol consumption in South Africa, that percentage is unacceptably low.
We need a fresh approach, said the AA, a perception that drinking and driving is not cool - and that letting a colleague or employee drive home when they've been drinking is even less so.
“In addition, those caught drinking and driving must face the harshest possible penalties. We need to send a message to all South Africans that this type of reckless behaviour will not be tolerated.” the AA concluded.