Drinking and driving can cost motorists more than a lost licence, a fine and jail time, an insurance company said on Monday.
Keith Kennedy, executive general manager of claims at Mutual and Federal, said a motorist driving under the influence of alcohol was not insured.
"If you drink and drive, you are driving without insurance and that leaves you liable to a whole host of undesired consequences," said Kennedy.
He said the financial impact of a multiple pile-up caused by a "tipsy" driver was huge and could potentially run into more than a million rand.
Financially, it could ruin a person's life, he said.
"As a major insurer, we know from many years of experience that consumers often pay insufficient regard to exclusion clauses in their policies.
"A key policy exclusion in motor insurance stipulates that driving with a proven alcohol level above the statutory limit invalidates your cover."
Many drivers did not realise just how vulnerable this left them to claims for restitution, said Kennedy.
"Most people would be ruined for life covering the cost of the physical damage to vehicles.
"Recourse could be taken by drivers of vehicles that were damaged or their insurers."
Kennedy warned that the growing number of imported vehicles in South Africa and the increasingly sophisticated automotive design features had significantly increased the cost of vehicle repair.
"The price of a new windscreen and airbag replacement - excluding the cost of bodywork repair - could exceed R50 000 on a luxury vehicle."
Drivers found to be over the legal limit are arrested and the maximum penalty for drinking and driving is a fine of R120 000 and/or six years' imprisonment.
Their driver's licences may be suspended and the Asset Forfeiture Unit could confiscate their vehicles.
The blood-alcohol limit for drivers is 0,05 gram per 100 millilitres of blood while the limit for professional drivers is 0,02 gram.
According to Kennedy, recent statistics show that more than 45 percent of drivers killed in road accidents had blood-alcohol levels above the legal limit.
"Our advice to drivers is to take no chances - do not drink at all if you are driving." - Sapa