Minister for booze ads ban

2013-01-11 00:00

THE advertising and alcohol industries have a new nemesis in Transport Minister Ben Martins, who is backing government plans to ban all booze adverts.

Martins, with the heads of various road agencies in full agreement, made the announcement yesterday when he released festive season crash statistics.

Speaking at a Durban beachfront hotel, he declared the department’s holiday road safety campaign a success — despite the deaths of at least 1 465 motorists, passengers and pedestrians in 1 221 fatal crashes.

The preliminary figure is 10 less than last year’s holiday death toll, measured each year from December 1 to January 10. A 30-day waiting period now commences before the final figure is released. Alcohol was the undisputed single biggest factor behind most of the fatalities.

“Approximately 40% of the fatalities involved pedestrians, most of whom were jaywalking on the road in a drunken state,” said Martins.

The call to ban alcohol advertising has been driven by the Health and Social Development departments in the last few years, and Martins is keen to add himself to the list.

Road Traffic Management Corporation CEO Collins Letsoala backed Martins yesterday, but neither were able to say what the grounds were for such a measure, other than to insist “it [alcohol advertising] does have an influence”.

Such thinking has many detractors, none more so than the country’s major booze manufacturers, represented by the Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA).

The ARA’s response is a comprehensive statement citing countless international surveys denying a causal link between advertising and increased consumption.

The ARA’s chief concern is the effect that a ban would have on the economy, especially in a struggling market like South Africa’s.

“An advertising ban would reduce competition and freeze market shares of existing brands, but have little effect on overall consumption,” the ARA said.

Martins, on the other hand, said their calculations showed road deaths cost the economy R306 billion, 60% of that related to drink.

This year will see further awareness initiatives and legislative attempts to strengthen enforcement, including the use of the demerit system, currently being tested in Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Other measures include a review of the alcohol limit; tougher consequences for habitual road offenders like public shaming; possible amendments to the driving licence process; and further testing of average speed prosecution.

Critics responded yesterday, arguing still more needed to be done.

The Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) blamed a “lack of cohesion” between the department and its transport institutions for the high holiday death toll.

“The Decade of Action was launched in 2011 and since then no real projects other than enforcement have been implemented.

“Real action to curb the road carnage is impossible when there is no cohesive strategy,” said AA spokesperson, Gary Ronald.

The IFP called for a national indaba to “come up with ways of putting an end to the wholesale slaughter of innocent people on our roads”, one proposal being a lifetime driving ban for convicted drunk drivers.

The DA appealed for an approach that would change the mentality of motorists. “Safety campaigns should focus on motivating motorists to take personal responsibility for their road safety and for that of other road users, including pedestrians,” said shadow deputy minister of transport, Greg Krumbock.

Traffic enforcement in numbers

1 282 000: vehicles stopped and checked;

528 642: notices issued;

2 462: vehicles stopped from operating;

1 355: vehicles impounded;

2 568: arrests for drinking and driving;

116: arrests for excessive speeding;

146: arrests for reckless and negligent driving

826: arrests for other offences

226: law enforcement operations

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