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Debate rages on whether to reduce motorists’ alcohol limit to 0% or not?

A suspect blows into a drager operated by Principle Inspector Adrian Long while Robin Carlisle and Officer Deon Sampson look on. Photo: Matthew Jordaan

A suspect blows into a drager operated by Principle Inspector Adrian Long while Robin Carlisle and Officer Deon Sampson look on. Photo: Matthew Jordaan

Published Jun 2, 2021


Cape Town - Deliberations are currently underway to determine whether the alcohol limit should be reduced, thus restricting motorists from drinking and driving.

Officials from the Department of Transport on Wednesday briefed the Portfolio Committee on Transport on responses received during public participation processes.

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Parliament published the draft Bill for comments on October 26 2020 and again in January this year.

The Section 65 amendment to the National Road Traffic Bill was introduced with an amendment to reduce the Blood or Breath Alcohol Content (BAC) in a blood specimen from 0.05 grams per 100 millilitres to a proposed 0.02 grams per 100 millilitres for professional drivers and from 0.24 to 0.10 milligrams in the breath specimen of general vehicle drivers and from 0.10 to 0.00 milligrams per 1 000 millilitres.

The department’s Chief Director to Road Regulation, Advocate Johannes Makgatho, said a need has been identified to reduce road carnages by implementing road safety legislative interventions.

There were about 6 000 comments relating to proposed amendments.

In the comments section, DearSA, a participative democracy group, said alcohol related road traffic deaths are at an unacceptable level in SA.

“More in depth detail is required for the proposed enforcement procedure for this piece of legislation and the penalty for failing the 0% alcohol level should be a minimum of six months in jail and license suspended for one year. If the penalty is not very severe, it will not do the job of stopping people drinking and driving.”

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Meanwhile, the South African Catholics Bishops Association commented that the removal of all reference to graduated concentrations of alcohol permitted for the safe operation of a motor vehicle is wrong at this point in time, unfair, misdirected, and has the effect of criminalising ordinary people.

“Before anyone asks for a reduction in the present legal alcohol limits, maybe there should be a drive to employ more law enforcement officers.”

The Automobile Association commented that evidence thus shows no benefit from BAC reductions in South Africa.

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“The effect of a zero limit will be that drivers whose blood or breath alcohol level is non-zero, but who are not in any way impaired, will be unjustly criminalised.

“We refer specifically to the effect of mouthwashes, certain medicines containing alcohol, and to the documented effects of gut fermentation syndrome in which the metabolism of some people produces detectable levels of alcohol.”

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