Zero alcohol proposal ‘addresses wrong problem’

Zero alcohol proposal ‘addresses wrong problem’

THE Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry has written to the Department of Transport calling for stricter enforcement of road and driving regulations rather than a zero limit for alcohol consumption.

In one of the proposed changes outlined in the Draft National Road Traffic Amendment Bill gazetted last month for public comment, the department suggests that if motorists consume alcohol they should not drive at all, regardless of the amount of alcohol consumed. The law permits drivers to have up to 0.05g of alcohol per 100ml of blood, or 0.02g/100ml for professional drivers.

Chamber president Janine Myburgh said on Tuesday that the proposed legislation addresses the wrong problem.

“Alcohol limits for South African drivers are already low and in line with those of countries which have already achieved significant reductions in road fatality rates,” Ms Myburgh said.

She said that unless there was a dramatic improvement in enforcement, the further reduction of alcohol limits would make no difference at all.

“When the zero limit makes a criminal of a man who has one Windhoek Light — a half-strength beer — with his lunch then we are inviting disrespect for the law.”

Ms Myburgh said the real problem could be seen in the enforcement statistics for the Western Cape, where only 17% of the fines issued by the province to drivers were actually paid.

“At present 83% of drivers in the Western Cape, and probably more in some other provinces, know they can duck and dive and avoid any responsibility for bad and irresponsible driving. The system of fining drivers is broken. It does not work and because it does not work it is not a deterrent,” she said.

South Africans Against Drunk Driving founder and director Caro Smit said in a recent statement that the organisation would support the drastic zero alcohol proposal for a number of reasons, including that “zero percent alcohol is easy to understand for all”.

“Zero is zero … Not even one sip of alcohol.”

“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 and the most common personal injury practice areas,” Ms Smit said.

However, she said the organisation was concerned that government departments did not have the political will or expertise to enforce and apply these “best practice” rules of the road.

“If we strictly followed the examples of first world countries and implemented our National Road Traffic Act, if the Departments of Transport, Justice, and SAPS (South African Police Service) worked optimally and saw drink driving as a serious crime that they concentrated on — instead of concentrating on speeding — it would work.”