Do you drive drunk?

Do you drive drunk?

Driving while under the influence of alcohol is just plain stupid. You endanger not only your life, but others on the road as well. Terence Pillay takes a look at drinking and driving in South Africa.

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We’ve all heard the line before: “Friends don’t let friends drink and drive.” So why are people still leaving clubs, bars and restaurants and getting behind the wheels of their cars?


I was at a friend’s birthday party at a restaurant on Florida Road the other day and was shocked to see so many people leaving the restaurant near-paralytic having consumed so much alcohol, and with no thought got into their cars and drove off. And it got me thinking... What if this person slams into me on the road?


In January this year, the Minister of Transport, Dipuo Peters said that the festive season road fatalities had increased by 14% and that between 1 December 2015 and 11 January 2016 there had been 1755 fatalities on South African roads – a staggering number.


According to the AA (Automobile Association of South Africa): the rule of drinking and driving is simple; don’t do it. It is a proven fact that your driving is impaired after even one unit of alcohol, so it is safer to not drink at all when you know you will be driving. Driving under the influence is a criminal offence and it only takes one point over the limit to seal your fate – which could mean up to six years in prison.


“Drunk driving is one of the biggest threats to Road Safety in South Africa,” says the AA. “More than 21,000 people have been arrested on our roads in the last year as a result of drinking and driving and it has been shown that 50% of people who die on our roads are over the limit.”


So what is the limit?  In South Africa, the legal limit is a breath alcohol content of 0.24mg per 1,000ml, or a blood alcohol limit of 0.05g per 100ml.


In layman’s terms, one unit of alcohol is equal to two thirds of a beer or spirit cooler with 5% alcohol content. For those who drink wine, 75ml of red or white wine per hour with an alcohol content of 12% to 14% is acceptable. Whisky and brandy drinkers can drink up to one 25ml tot of alcohol per hour.


An article that I read on the eNCA website lays it out quite explicitly. 

According to the article the legal alcohol limit is exceeded after just two standard beers.  If you are suspected of driving over the limit, you will be breathalysed and you will be arrested. 

If the Breathalyser tests positive, you will be taken into custody and sent for further testing at an alcohol testing centre. A registered nurse will take a blood sample from you. The sample will be securely stored and transported by the police to a laboratory.

Once you have been arrested you will be taken to a police station, where you will be detained in the holding cells for at least four hours to sober up.

On busy nights, like on weekends, it could be longer before you are processed and released.

A docket will be opened and you will be allocated an investigating officer who will follow up your blood test results.

The article says the bail amount for driving under the influence varies depending on the jurisdiction of the police station but most require R500.

If you have been arrested for drunk driving, you car will be taken to the police station. Your keys will be held and returned to you once you have been processed and paid bail., says perhaps you’ve been “lucky” up to now and you have not been caught drinking and driving; because you think that you are capable of driving drunk. But what are the implications if you do get caught?


If you’re found guilty of drunk driving in South Africa 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.


Have you ever got behind the wheel of your car drunk? What happened?


You can email Terence Pillay at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @terencepillay1 and tweet him your thoughts.

Sources: Automobile Association of South Africa, eNCA, Arrive Alive and Drive South Africa

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