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End of the road for drinking and driving

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“It is a good idea because in South Africa, people did not actually calculate how much alcohol was in their drink. This will work but people will still need to be tested”

THE Department of Transport has confirmed that the new Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offence (Aarto) Act will come into effect in June.

According to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, the act will include the new 0% legal blood-alcohol limit. This means drivers will not be allowed to have a drink before getting behind the wheel.

Previously, the legal limit was 0.05g per 100mm for normal drivers and 0.02g per 100mm for professional drivers. Mbalula said his department had received overwhelming support for the new limit.

The move has been welcomed by the Automobile Association (AA).

AA spokesperson Layton Beard said the law fell within the AA’s mantra of “drink or drive”.

“This sends a very clear message that you should drink and get dropped off at home or arrange for transport to take you home, but you cannot get behind the wheel and drive. We are very happy about the implementation of the law,” he said.

The move has also been hailed by Caro Smit, of South Africans Against Drunk Driving.

“It is a good idea because in South Africa, people did not actually calculate how much alcohol was in their drink. This will work but people will still need to be tested,” Smit said.

Smit added that for the law to work, there would need to be tougher policing of drunk drivers.

“In South Africa, we have a very low conviction rate for drunk drivers. However, if this new law would make a difference and save lives, we greatly welcome it,” Smit said.

Earlier this month, Police Minister Bheki Cele announced that at least 24000 people were arrested for drunk driving over the festive season, an increase of 19.5% from the previous year.

However, not all aspects of the Aarto Act have been welcomed.

Beard said the AA was not convinced that Aarto was necessarily going to be a panacea of road safety.

“We still maintain that we have reservations about the system. In our view, many of its provisions are geared towards revenue collection rather than actual effect of traffic law enforcement,” he said.

Beard said one of their reservations was that the demerit points allocated to some of the offences were too low. “We are also worried about the practical application and implementation of the system.

“We are concerned about how users will be able to access information,” he said.

Motor Industry Workshop Association (Miwa) chairperson Dewald Ranft said that while they fully supported the zero-tolerance initiative, this in itself would not eradicate the carnage on South Africa’s roads. “Periodic vehicle testing, which has been on the law books for many years, and which has yet to be implemented by the government, would contribute substantially towards ensuring that our rapidly ageing vehicle parc (all vehicles in operation), remains roadworthy.”