How the new zero-tolerance drunk driving law will affect your car insurance

Drunk driving
Drunk driving

• Zero tolerance when new drunk-driving laws have been passed
• Legal blood-alcohol limit for drivers will be 0%
• This law can have a significant impact on insurance policies

The days of having a beer after work and driving home will soon be over – and that's not just because of the lockdown restrictions. Once South Africa's strict new drunk-driving laws have been passed, drivers won't be allowed to drink alcohol at all.

Currently, it's still legal to get behind the wheel if your blood-alcohol level is under 0.05g per 100ml. The new bill adopts a zero-tolerance approach to drunk driving by setting the legal blood-alcohol limit for drivers at 0%.

This has serious implications for South African drivers. If you're involved in an accident after having even a single drink, you won't just find yourself on the wrong side of the law, but it can also have a significant impact on your insurance.

Insurers have the right to refuse to pay accident claims if the driver's blood-alcohol level is over the legal limit.

This clause is included in almost every car insurance policy in SA. Previously, it was difficult to determine whether people were over the legal limit and whether their driving ability was impaired. The new zero-tolerance approach removes this grey area. If you break the law by driving with alcohol in your blood, your insurer will have no obligation to meet your claim.

Image: iStock

If you're guilty of this offence, it's also likely that your premium will increase significantly, as you'll be considered a higher risk. In the worst-case scenario, if you're convicted of drunk driving or have your licence endorsed or suspended, your current insurer may cancel your policy, and you may find it difficult to get car insurance at all in future.

While the new law will potentially reduce the number of accidents caused by drunken driving, it won't immediately affect premiums. 

If we see fewer accidents due to fewer drunken driving incidents in the longer term, though, we may see premiums coming down due to lower claims costs for insurers.

The new law won't see existing polices being altered, as most policies already stipulate that drivers must abide by the law. Therefore, the 0% legal blood-alcohol limit will apply as soon as the new law comes into effect.

The bottom line? Once Covid regulations are relaxed to the point where social gatherings are allowed again, make sure you have another form of transport if you have a drink or two. 

Companies such as King Price can add a service which gets the driver and their car home safely when it's not a good idea to drive. It's a small additional cost for major peace of mind. Or make Uber your friend, or get a designated driver. But make a plan. It's just not worth taking the risk of getting behind the wheel.

Wynand van Vuuren is a customer experience partner at King Price.

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