South Africa: Improved DUI Laws Coming
Improved laws to stop driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol will be coming by June this year in South Africa.
The plan to reduce blood alcohol content (BAC) was announced by President Ramaphosa in October 2019. The new Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) bill was also signed into law in the same period in 2019.
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has now confirmed the AARTO Act including the new 0% BAC limit will commence being enforced in June 2020.
The current National Road Traffic Act (NRA) allows 0.05% BAC for normal drivers and 0.02% for professional drivers. These limits are not working according to Police Minister Bheki Cele, as over 24,000 people were arrested for being under the influence while driving during the festive season. This is about one-third of all arrests made in this period. Therefore, the government has decided to take a tougher stance on driving under the influence (DUI).
We are going to be intolerant to [using alcohol] and driving. We’re going beyond saying there’s some percentage – it must be zero percent. It’s going to be zero. No alcohol in the blood – and the law is going to bite with regard to that,” said Minister Mbalula, as per Business Tech.
The Minister also said there is wide support for the new DUI laws as out of over 500,000 comments relating to AARTO received by their department, only one was related to the DUI laws.
Stronger laws for safer roads
Going even further to ensure road safety, the South African government will be introducing a driving demerit system. Under the new laws all traffic fines across the country will now carry the same penal values. However, only some infringements will carry demerit-points under the AARTO.
With the demerit system, a driver may incur no more than 12 demerit points without their licence being suspended. On the 13th point, and for every point thereafter, your licence, operator card or permit issued in terms of road transport legislation will be suspended for three months for each point over 12.
For example, if a driver incurs 15 demerit points, the suspension period will be nine months.
The Act includes several other charges such as, a R100 penalty fee attached to each infringement, and admin fees to contest fines. In the current wording not paying e-tolls can also be fined through the Act.
We’re going live. We take points, we take away your driver’s licence. The president has signed this into law, and now we’re implementing it,” said Minister Mbalula, as per Business Tech.
According to data from the World Health Organization, South Africa’s DUI problem is serious. 3,600+ road traffic deaths are caused by alcohol, every year. And road traffic crashes are a major source of injury, disability and death in South Africa and throughout the world. Traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among young people, according to the WHO.
The WHO recommends in a new technical guide that road safety legislation should stipulate upper BAC limits for drivers at a maximum of ≤ 0.05 g/dL or lower for the general population, and at 0.02 g/dL or lower for novice and commercial drivers. This shows that the government in South Africa is adopting evidence-based recommendations.
The WHO also advices (PDF):
Legislation should specify the penalties for violation of such limits, allow for roadside testing (typically of breath) with approved and calibrated equipment, make it an offence for drivers to refuse a roadside breath test, and allow test results to be used as evidence in court. Penalties should include a combination of administrative sanctions (e.g. driving licence suspension) and criminal ones (e.g. mandatory minimum fines) of adequate severity.”
Clearly, in announcing the new regulations and penalties the government is acting upon evidence-based advice. It will be crucial, one the regulations come into force, that the BAC limits are combined with consistent and highly visible enforcement to be most effective, and to ensure that the detection of violation results in penalties that are certain, swift and sufficiently severe. All this is best underpinned when supported by effective public education campaigns.