"Friends Don't Let Friends Drink Then Drive"

Winner of a Prince Michael International Road Safety Award 2012

Statement on the proposed zero limit for drink driving

South Africans Against Drunk Driving (SADD) comments on Section 65 of National Road Traffic Act - lowering of BAC to Zero.


Comments by: Caro Smit. Director and Founder. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 082 821 3673 033 3470103


South Africas’ blood alcohol level was lowered from <0.08g to <0.05g, more than 15 years ago, and our death and injury rate has increased since then!


World Health Organization (W.H.O.) say an alcohol level of <0.05g, as SA have at the moment, is "Best Practice" and totally acceptable.


So SA should be able to reduce drink driving with this level of <0.05!


This is, if we strictly followed the examples of 1st world countries and implemented our National Road Traffic Act (NRTA), if the Departments of Transport, Justice, and SAPS worked optimally and saw drink driving as a serious crime that they concentrated on (instead of concentrating on speeding,) it would work.

So theoretically we should concentrate on enforcement, swift trials, consequences as allowed in the NRTA (like suspension of Driving Licences of all people convicted, jail time for those who kill or injure, etc.) and we should keep the level the same at <0.05.


However, according to W.H.O, SA scores a poor 2/10 for enforcement. 


Because people are seldom tested in SA, they take a chance (because they can usually get away with it) and drink then drive, and crashes occur.


South Africans Against Drunk Driving (SADD) do not feel our Government Departments have the political will or expertize, to enforce, and apply these “Best Practice” rules of the road.


SADD feel a BAC of <0.02 is more appropriate than a Zero level.

This is due to the difficulty with measuring a Zero rate on many machines; the presence of natural alcohol in the body; small amounts of medication taken containing alcohol; etc.


A BAC level of <0.02 allows for natural alcohol production in the body, but does not allow for even 1 unit of alcohol like 1 tot of whiskey, half a can of beer or a small glass of wine etc.

So basically it means zero alcohol can be drunk before driving.


However SADD would also accept and support the drastic proposal to lower the BAC to Zero, for the following reasons.

⦁ SA has about the worst death and injury rate in the world. Every year approximately 20 000 are killed and 150 000 injured. Most of the road carnage is very preventable, with alcohol abuse being behind about 65% of these incidents.
⦁ Department of Transport are not going to achieve the “Decade of Action” pledge we took to reduce the death rate by 50% before 2020, unless we take drastic measures.
⦁ Zero % alcohol is easy to understand for all! Zero is zero! Not even 1 sip of alcohol!
⦁ SADD do not believe most of our public are sophisticated enough to work out what a unit comes to in blood alcohol concentrations; know what the elimination rates of alcohol are; know the difference between “drinking” and “ being drunk” and know when one is safe to drive.
⦁ SAPS, Traffic Officers, Magistrates and Judges also do not seem to know the difference between drinking and being “drunk”. That a person who is alcohol dependent/an alcoholic does not look or act drunk, because they are a practiced drinker (i.e. have alcohol tolerance) but that their driving is severely impaired. They do not seem to know what a Unit comes to in BAC or breath alcohol concentrations, or what the effect of alcohol at the different concentrations have on driving skills.
⦁ As a result many people who are over the limit are not tested or arrested by Traffic Officers/SAPS; or are not correctly or appropriately sanctioned by Judges and Magistrates.
⦁ South African motorists are notorious for not following the rules of the road, or to appeals to “behave themselves” and to “not drink and drive.”
⦁  South Africans are the biggest drinkers in Africa, and 4th worldwide with risky drinking styles such as drink driving; excessive binge drinking; drinking to get drunk/pass out; drinking from morning to night and drinking without eating food.
⦁ Alcohol abuse is creating an enormous burden to our economy (about R400 billion annually or R198 Billion on the roads alone) and an unquantifiable cost to the mental health of families.

NOTE: SADD accept that the body can produce very small trace elements of alcohol and suggest that no one with a BAC of 0.01 should be prosecuted, unless they have a serious crash.

What about alcohol in medication?

Of interest you will see from the graph below how little the alcohol in medication affects BAC!



It is also clearly marked on all medicines containing alcohol that the person should not drive, or operate machinery!


Alcohol free medication is available. See Prospan above!


NB: SADD caution that merely changing the level to zero will not mean people will stop drink driving!

⦁ A Zero limit must be followed through with rigorous enforcement i.e. frequent random testing, good paper work that stands up in court, swift appearances in Court, suspending Licenses after drink driving convictions (or alternately installing an alcohol ignition interlock if the licence is not suspended), or going to jail if someone is killed or severely injured.
⦁ It must also be followed by proper correct alcohol education. Teaching how many units are in different drinks, having the units printed on all cans and bottles containing alcohol, teaching what a unit comes to in blood/breath alcohol concentrations; know what the elimination rates of alcohol are; and teaching the difference between “drinking” and “ being drunk.”


People’s behaviour only changes when they are afraid of the legal and financial implications of their actions.
Only then will drink driving and our death rate decrease.

A few other comments from SADD.


NB:  Correct wording of  "Drink Driving" vs "Drunk Driving" & "Crashes" vs "Accidents"
⦁ Please note that the United Nations/World Health Organization have asked road safety officials/media/everyone to show we care, and not  call them "accidents" but "crashes", as there is usually a cause for the crash e.g. alcohol use then driving/walking; speeding; reckless overtaking; unroadworthy vehicles; not wearing seatbelts etc.
⦁ In addition it is not called "drunk driving" anymore. It is called "drink driving" internationally now, as any drink/alcohol affects driving skills, and it is not important whether the person is "drunk" or not.

Governments aim to get a balance between minimizing interference in people’s lives, and at the same time protecting their lives on the roads.

It is very sad when many law abiding drivers are penalized for the actions of irresponsible people.

That one cannot have one unit an hour at the pub and relatively safely, drive home.

Not a “drink” an hour, one unit an hour!

One drink like a large glass of wine/beer, or large bottle of beer puts you over the legal limit.

LITE = “Light In Total Energy”, not light in alcohol, so one can be over the legal limit!

Education is lacking about units, and many people try and be responsible by drinking LITE drinks/less.

Eg: Comment in “The City Press” on 8th February 2015 from Mandla Ngomane Nelspruit. “Yes, we are a phuza nation. However, to avoid slip-ups, avoid mixing alcohol. We should drink one kind. I drink light (LITE) lager and can drink up to 6 quarts and still drive, because it has less than 4% alcohol.”

SADD’s Comment: On 1 quart of 4% alcohol he would be over the legal limit at 0.06! After 6 quarts his BAC would be 0.36! He would need to wait about 16 hours before he is under the legal limit!!

J.G. Cape Town: “I drink 2 glasses of wine and know I am under the legal limit.”

SADD’s Comment:1 x 120 ml restaurant glass of red wine would contain 3.5 units so he would be over the legal limit (0.07) on 1 glass, or be 0.14 on 2 glasses of red wine.

SADD ask for:
⦁ Both drivers to be tested for alcohol and/or drugs at every crash scene.
⦁ Evidential breathalyzer to be brought back as soon as possible.

Thank you very much.

Kind regards, Caro Smit.
Director and Founder. Alcohol and Drug Educator & Counsellor. Psychiatric Social Worker.