Here’s how the new drunk driving law will affect your car insurance

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In 2021, a law prohibiting South Africans from driving after just one drink will come into effect
In 2021, a law prohibiting South Africans from driving after just one drink will come into effect
Safely Home by Western Cape Government

At present, it's still legal to get behind the wheel if your blood-alcohol level is under 0.05g per 100ml.

If you're found guilty of drunk driving under SA's new law, it's likely that your insurance premium will increase.

Drunken driving has claimed many lives on South African roads.

For more motoring stories, visit Wheels24.

There was a time during the national hard lockdown when the number of road deaths were reduced significantly, firstly because there were hardly any vehicles on the road other than essential workers, and also because the consumption of alcohol was banned.

Fast-forward to the present and the restrictions have eased drastically.

Currently, it's still legal to get behind the wheel if your blood-alcohol level is under 0.05g per 100ml. The new National Road Traffic Amendment Act prohibits alcohol consumption by all motor vehicle operators on South African  public roads by setting the legal blood-alcohol limit for drivers at 0%. This has profound implications for drivers. 

According to the Road Traffic Act 93/96 as in effect since March 1998. Sections 122, 126, 149 states: "No person shall on a public road, drive a vehicle or 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."

Read more about the Alcohol and the legal implications of drunk driving on Arrive Alive.

Zero tolerance

The days of having a beer after work and driving home are over. Once SA's strict new drunk-driving laws come into effect this month, you won't be allowed behind the wheel of a motor vehicle after even one drink.

READ | Less drunk, but more driving - Can lockdown make you forget how to drive? 

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. Still, it can also have a significant impact on your insurance, warns King Price's Wynand van Vuuren.

Van Vuuren says: "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 after drinking, your insurer has no obligation to meet your claim."

drunk driving,alcohol
In 2021, a law prohibiting South Africans from driving after just one drink will come into effect

"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 license 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", says Van Vuuren.

Abiding by the law

He says: "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 policies being altered, as most 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? If you're going to drink, make sure you have alternative transport, 

There are various 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," he says.

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