The Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) yesterday called for a holistic strategy to address non-adherence to the rules of the road – with drinking and driving being part of the mix.
This after Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, concerned about an upsurge in alcohol-linked accidents during Level 2 of Covid-19 – urged for a 0% alcohol content limit for drivers.
Three officers from the Tshwane Metro Police Department were this week killed during a head-on collision with a suspected drunk driver in the early hours of Sunday.
Without giving details, Department of Transport spokesperson Ayanda Allie-Payne said Mbalula would soon make an announcement on government’s response to incidents of drinking and driving under Level 2.
With SA rated fifth by last year’s World Health Organisation for its growing drinking population, AA spokesperson Layton Beard said: “When it comes to 0% blood alcohol level, it is something that we as AA support.”
“People misunderstand issues, zero tolerance to drunk driving and 0% alcohol content are two very different [things]. What we are looking at is zero tolerance towards drunk driving.
“That would mean you need to have a lot of proper law enforcement, with all your equipment working at all times and blood samples processed quickly.
“The question we have been raising is, you drop the level to 0% blood alcohol content, how is that going to be different in application to the current situation?” Beard said it all boiled to “law enforcement”.
“If you say, we are going to reduce the blood alcohol content to zero, to what level are you going to apply that law?” he asked.
“If they have no beer or 10 beers, they are still going to drive while over the limit. It is all about how you are going to stop those people, process them and how that is going to be different in an environment when you have zero blood alcohol content, compared to what you have at the moment.”
Beard said public education on road safety was key to solving the problem of drunk driving.
“You will find in places like Australia, they’ve got a 0.05% alcohol content limit, but in some United States states, they’ll have 0% blood alcohol content.
“It is all about the application of the law – various countries will have different alcohol content limits. It is not about the blood alcohol content level; it is about the enforcement of the law.”
He added that it is about educating people on an ongoing basis from a young age on road safety.
“… 40% of the deaths on our road are pedestrians, so we need to focus about walking safely, making yourself visible at night and in winter, kids walking to school or getting of taxis also deserve attention.”
“Our message is: obey the rules of the road and don’t drink and drive. Don’t speak on your cellphone or be distracted while you drive and make sure your children are properly restrained.”