Have Your Say on Proposed Lowering of Blood Alcohol Level | Western Cape Government

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Have Your Say on Proposed Lowering of Blood Alcohol Level

26 February 2015

Statement by Donald Grant, Minister of Transport and Public Works

On 28 January 2015, the National Department of Transport gazetted the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill. Of the proposed amendments, most prominent is an envisaged lowering of the current blood-alcohol limit to zero for all motorists.

The relevant new provision 43 (b)(2)(attached) would read:

“No person shall on a public road –

(a) drive a vehicle; or

(b) occupy the driver’s seat of a motor vehicle the engine of which is running,

while there is concentration of alcohol in any specimen of blood taken from any part of his or her body.”

This clause would replace the previous requirement of drivers being prohibited from driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 gram per 100 millilitres or more, or in the case of a professional driver, a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02 gram per 100 millilitres or more.

While we support the need for continual review of legislation to ensure that it is appropriate for the South African context and is effective, where road carnage remains a growing pandemic, there are strong reservations about the current proposal as there is no scientific evidence to show that if the existing acceptable levels of alcohol consumption are reduced, there will be a decline in the number of crashes.

Furthermore, there is no proof that drivers that have consumed alcohol, but within the currently prescribed levels, are more dangerous on the road than those that have not consumed alcohol. Insufficient law enforcement, an extremely low prosecution pace and the length of time it takes to process blood samples are some of the key reasons for the continued disregard of the law.

Reducing the blood alcohol limit to a zero rating will have severe unintended consequences on an already overstrained and ineffective justice system, with backlogs at forensic laboratories (where the blood testing occurs) and courts set to escalate.

Excessive alcohol consumption is undoubtedly a leading factor in the carnage we see on our roads daily. In order to address this very serious issue effectively, we must have appropriate laws, the requisite levels of enforcement, speedy prosecutions, and tough convictions handed down by our courts. All of this would combine in a concerted effort to stigmatise the crime and deter would-be offenders from participating in anti-social behaviour like drinking and driving, and drinking and walking.

We must also benchmark our interventions with international best practice, and adopt lessons from countries that continue to lead in road safety, namely Australia, Germany, the US (United States) and the UK (United Kingdom). This is the only way that we can achieve a real behavioural change that is necessary to dramatically curb the scourge of the carnage on our roads.

Before any amendments are to be considered, a proper study (formal regulatory impact assessment) should be undertaken to highlight and address all concerns and challenges.

We have submitted our comprehensive comments to the National Department of Transport, and I call on all those affected to submit their comments before the 27 February 2015 deadline.

Comments to the proposed amendments may be sent via post, email, or fax to the following addresses:

Ngwako Thoka
Department of Transport
Private Bag X193
Tel: (012) 309 3764
Fax: (012) 309 3962

John Motsatsing
Department of Transport
Private Bag X193
E-Mail: MotsatsiRdotsiov.za
Tel: (012) 309 3574
Fax: (012) 309 3962

A full copy of the Draft National Road Traffic Amendment Bill can be accessed on the Western Cape Government website.

Media Enquiries: 

Siphesihle Dube
Spokesperson for Minister of Transport and Public Works, Donald Grant
Tel: 021 483 8954
Cell: 084 233 3811
E-mail: siphesihle.dube@westerncape.gov.za