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Drunk Driving Laws In South Africa


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Drinking and driving is a subject that no one should ever shrug off or cast aside. The seriousness of drunken driving charges are enough to scare anyone away from driving drunk, but there are far more solemn implications that can occur when people don’t take their blood alcohol limit seriously; fatal implications.

Do you know enough about the South African drunk driving laws to understand how much is enough? And if you don’t, do you understand the drunk driving charges associated with a blood alcohol limit that is beyond what it should be?

Blood Alcohol Limits

The South African Road Traffic Act 93/96 has been in effect since March 1998. These drinking and driving laws serve to protect our community and to best treat the subject of drunken driving charges.

  • The legal blood alcohol limit = < 0.05g per 100ml
  • The legal breath alcohol limit is less than 0.24mg in 1,000 ml of breath

What does this allow you to consume? Well in simple terms, 2 drinks over the space of 1 hour will put you over the limit. Drinks can be divided into units that can be further broken down as follows:

  • 1 glass of 75ml wine = 1 unit
  • 1 glass of 250ml wine = 3.3 units
  • 1 shooter = ½ a unit in most cases
  • 1 spirit cooler = approximately 1.25 units
  • 1 beer = 1.5 units or more
  • 1 cider = 2 units
  • 1 25ml shot of spirits = 1 unit
  • 1 cocktail = 2 – 4 units

1 unit = 0.02g blood alcohol

It takes your body 1 hour to process 1 unit of alcohol. Ideally, you should never be getting into the driver’s seat of your car after drinking any alcohol, but at least this way you can work out how long it takes for the alcohol to leave your system.

Here is a startling fact to catch your attention, as according to Dr Charles Parry of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Group under the Medical Research Council (MRC): 40% of drivers who die on the road have alcohol levels in excess of .08gms/100ml.

Local Drinking And Driving Laws

Any person driving on South African roads should familiarise themselves with the local drunk driving laws. We’ve summarised the drinking and driving laws for your easy perusal:

1. No person shall on a public road -
a. Drive a vehicle; or b. Occupy a driver's seat of a motor vehicle, the engine of which is running, while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or a drug having a narcotic effect
2. No person shall on a public road -
a. Drive a vehicle; or b. Occupy a driver's seat of a motor vehicle, the engine of which is running, while the concentration of alcohol in any specimen of blood taken part of his or her body is not less than 0,05 gram per 100 millilitres.
3. If, in any prosecution for a contravention of the provisions of subsection (2), it is proved that the concentration of alcohol in any specimen of blood taken from any part of the body of the person concerned was not less than 0,05 grams per 100 millilitres at any time within two hours after the alleged offence, it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, that such concentration was not less than 0,05 grams per 100 millilitres of blood at the time of the alleged offence.

Implications Of Being Caught

Perhaps you haven’t been caught drinking and driving; perhaps you’ve been “lucky” up to now because you think that you’re a “good drunk driver”. But what could happen to you if you ignore these drinking and driving laws and you do get caught?

If you’re found guilty of drunken driving you could be arrested and jailed for up to 6 years. You could also face fines of up to R120,000 and you could also have your driver’s license suspended. The other glaring fact is that you’ll have a criminal record which can make seriously hinder the successful progression of the rest of your life. The worst case scenario is that you could kill yourself, your loved ones or someone else on the road.

First Car Rental Stands For Road Safety

At First Car Rental, we believe in ensuring that when you hire a car from us, you are in the best physical condition to be operating a vehicle. We do not condone drunken driving in any way and we’ll make sure that we never rent cars to those who ignore their blood alcohol limit. While we can’t watch over every person who hires one of our budget or executive cars, we do hope that our patrons will have the common sense to look after themselves and to drive with caution.

Some good news for those of our patrons who are out on the town and find they’re unable to drive home; we’ve partnered with Good Fellas. If you’re a Good Fellas member you can call a Good Fellas driver to come and assist you without being in each of your contract with First Car Rental.

At all First Car Rental branches we believe in safety above all else. Please, drive safe on our roads.


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