Drivers in South Africa could soon be banned from drinking any alcohol at all before getting behind the wheel.
John Motsatsing, chief director of road transport regulation in the Department of Transport, said the government was seriously considering a zero alcohol limit for all drivers.
“Irrespective of how many drinks you’ve had, you cannot judge if you are over the alcohol limit, because you are not an expert,” he said. “So why can we not say no drinking at all if you are driving?
“We are going to do away with the alcohol limit. We are drafting a document and will put it out for public comment.”
At least 203 people were killed in road accidents during the Easter weekend, according The Road Traffic Management Corporation.
It is estimated that almost half of all weekend motor vehicle crash victims at public hospitals are injured as a result of abuse of alcohol.
In metropolitan roadblocks one in every 10 drivers tested is above the legal alcohol limit, according to the corporation’s Ishref Ismail.
The reports listed that 57 percent of drivers tested positive for alcohol in 2008, an increase of 16 percent from the statistics compiled in 2002.
The reports showed alarming growth in alcohol use by all road users, with an overall 6 percent increase by 2008 in the number of people who died in traffic accidents while they had alcohol in the bloodstream compared to 2002.
Robin Carlisle, Western Cape Transport MEC, said the plan was “bold and dramatic”, but “wishful thinking”.
He said while close to 700 people had been killed on the country’s roads as a result of drunkenness last month, the government needed to get the basics right first.
“The emphasis should be on those who drive drunk, not those who have a drink and drive.”
Caro Smit, director of South Africans Against Drunk Driving, said her organisation understood that it was difficult to have total zero but that they would support a 0.02 limit which allows some sort of reasonable leeway for measurement error – especially to avoid criminalising people for taking medicine like cough mixture.
“We feel strongly that the alcohol limit should be lowered drastically,” she said. “However, it is no use lowering the limit if authorities are not going to catch those who drink and drive… we still do not have enough testing…”
Alta Swanepoel, independent traffic and transport consultant, said a zero alcohol limit might be hard to police.
“We don’t have enough traffic officers to take on hundreds of people and charge them.”
Gary Ronald of the Automobile Association said in Brazil, after the zero alcohol limit was adopted, road deaths dropped 30 percent in three months. - Weekend Argus