Drunk Driving laws in South Africa

Driving while under the influence of alcohol in South Africa is not to be taken lightly. It is a very serious offence. The gravity of the charges should be enough to sober you up to its fatal consequences.

Are you familiar with the South African laws regarding driving under the influence of alcohol, do you watch your blood alcohol limit? Do you know when you are beyond the limit? Do you understand what charges can be levied against you if your blood alcohol limit is beyond what it should be?

What is the acceptable blood alcohol limit?
The South African Road Traffic Act 93/96 has been in effect since March 1998. Whether you are driving in your home town or on roads foreign to you in a car hire vehicle, these laws are extremely important to obey. These laws are in place to help protect the community and to make sure that drunk drivers are reprimanded.

The legal blood alcohol limit in South Africa is less than 0.05 g per 100 ml
The legal breath alcohol limit in South Africa is less than 0.24 mg in 1000 ml of breath

In simple terms, this means that 2 drinks over the space of 1 hour will put you over the limit. Below is a breakdown of alcohol units per drink type:

1 x 75 ml glass of wine = 1 unit
1 x 250 ml glass of wine = 3.3 units
1 x shot/shooter = ½ unit in most instances
1 x spirit cooler = about 1.25 units
1 x beer = 1.5 units or possibly more
1 x cider = 2 units
1 x 25 ml tot of spirits = 1 unit
1 x cocktail = Between 2 and 4 units

1 unit is equal to 0.02g blood alcohol - Source: Drunk Driving Laws in South Africa

It takes your body approximately 1 hour to process 1 unit of alcohol. Ideally, after drinking any alcohol you should avoid getting into the driver’s seat of your car, but at least this way you can work out how long it takes for the alcohol to leave your system.

According to Dr Charles Parry of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Group under the Medical Research Council (MRC) 40% of drivers who die on the road have alcohol levels in excess of .08 gms / 100 ml.

Local Drunk Driving Laws in South Africa
Any person driving on South African roads should be familiar with the local drunk driving laws in South Africa. Here’s a summary of the laws to make it easier for you:

No person on a public road shall:
- Occupy a driver's seat of a motor vehicle, the engine of which is running, while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or a drug having a narcotic effect.
- Occupy a driver's seat of a motor vehicle, the engine of which is running, while the concentration of alcohol in any specimen of blood taken from his or her body is not less than 0.05 grams per 100 millilitres.

The two-hour rule:
According to the National Traffic Act 1996, if in any prosecution for a contravention of the provisions of subsection (2), it is proved that the concentration of alcohol in any specimen of blood taken from any part of the body of the person concerned was not less than 0.05 grams per 100 millilitres at any time within two hours after the alleged offence, it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, that such concentration was not less than 0.05 grams per 100 millilitres of blood at the time of the alleged offence.

Breatherlizer and blood sample test

 If you are caught and suspected of being over the legally allowed amount of alcohol, traffic authorities are allowed to take a specimen of your breath which needs to be less than 0,24 milligrams per 1000 millilitres of breath at any time within two hours of the alleged contravention. Following this, if your exceed the allowed limit authorities are then allowed to detain you for further evaluation involving a blood test - you are not allowed to refuse this and the authorities are well within their rights to restrain you if necessary.

Being Caught driving under the influence in South Africa
Being subjected to this sometimes humiliating process however isn't the least of your problems. Getting caught driving under the influence of alcohol means you will need to appear in court. If you’re found guilty, you could face up to 6 years in jail. You could also be liable for fines of up to R120 000 and your driver’s license may be suspended. You will also have a criminal record which can have serious ramifications for the rest of your life. Of course, the worst case scenario is that you could kill someone else on the road, your loved ones or yourself.

This article first appeared on Drive South Africa
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