South Africa’s roads are a dangerous place to be at the best of times, but especially so over the Easter weekend.
This weekend alone saw 235 deaths last year and drunk driving, along with speeding and pedestrian accidents, played a major role in the carnage.
With tens of thousands of cars expected to hit the main routes to KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo this weekend, the roads are expected to be as chaotic as ever and those drivers who don’t lay off the booze will face some hefty consequences.
Although there is proposed legislation that will completely ban all consumption of alcohol on SA’s roads, for now you’re still allowed to get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking, as long as your blood alcohol content is below 0.05 grams per 100 millilitres, and your breath alcohol concentration is below 0.24g/1000ml.
The problem is that far too many individuals don’t stop at one or two drinks before getting behind the wheel, with devastating consequences, says King Price insurance’s client experience partner, Wynand van Vuuren.
Authorities estimate that Drunk driving incidents cost the economy an estimated R18.2 billion annually and account for 27.1% of fatal crashes on local roads.
“The fact that you’re not covered by insurance for incidents where you’re under the influence of alcohol and drugs is the least of your worries,” Van Vuuren says. “The far greater concern is the devastation you can inflict on entire families and communities by causing injuries to or the death of innocent people while you’re drunk.
“Even if you don’t hurt anyone with your irresponsible behaviour, you could end up with a criminal record. You’ll undoubtably find it difficult to get insurance again in the future. And that’s on top of the huge bills you’ll face for loss or damage to your own car, along with that of any other vehicles or property. It’s just not worth it.”
How to stay safe over the Easter weekend
Get your vehicle ready: Check your tyres, top up your fluids and do some general maintenance to make sure your car is ready for a long trip. Poorly maintained cars raise the risks of accidents significantly.
Avoid distractions: Don’t text and drive. It’s estimated that texting while driving increases your chances of an accident 23 times. If you have to use your phone, wait for a stop.
Don’t drive tired: Fatigue is a major contributor to accidents on our roads. Get enough sleep the night before. If you find yourself yawning while driving, pull over and take a break, or let someone else drive.
Drive defensively: Watch out for other drivers and people next to the road. The AA estimates a third of all road fatalities to be pedestrians. Stay focused, and be alert to road conditions and other road users’ and pedestrians’ unpredictable behaviour.