South Africa's current Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit of 0.05% should be lowered to 0.02% for all drivers, the Automobile Association of South Africa said on Wednesday.
AASA spokesperson Rob Handfield-Jones said the crisis on South Africa's roads demanded this tougher approach. Drinking and driving could be combated more effectively by reducing the allowable alcohol limits for drivers and courts should impose tougher sentences on drink and drive offenders, he said.
"The AA has conducted numerous research projects into the effects of alcohol on driving. And, without exception, each one has proven that drivers are already significantly impaired at the 0.05% limit. We are concerned that this limit is inappropriate in South Africa
where one is 14 times more likely to die in a traffic crash than in the USA," he said.
The BAC limit for drivers driving under the terms of a Professional Driving Permit (PrDP) was 0.02%.
Eliminate risk factors= safer roads
"The AA fully agrees with the 0.02% limit for professional drivers," said Handfield-Jones. "This allows some leeway for medications which contain alcohol, but still emphasises that one alcoholic drink puts you over the limit. The mixed message of having a different limit for ordinary drivers is impeding the fight against drunkenness on our roads."
Handfield-Jones said that alcohol was just one of many factors which combined to make a traffic crash more likely. "The more risk factors we can eliminate from the roads, the safer they'll become," he said.
"Despite numerous efforts over the past ten years, there has not been a wide-scale decline in the social acceptability of drinking and driving, yet over the same period, smokers have gone from being perfectly acceptable to social pariahs. The difference is one of political will," he said.
Jail time might sensitise public
The law provided for a maximum fine of R120 000 or six years in jail, but he noted that such a sentence had never been imposed. If jail terms were handed down for drinking and driving, the public would become more sensitised to the issue.
Handfield-Jones called for greater enforcement of drink and drive laws and for wider use of "evidentiary breath-testing machines".
"Drivers who ensure they are sober will have nothing to fear, but those who drink will then be removed from the roads before they can cause harm," he said. – (Sapa, August 2008)
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