Drunk driving in South Africa: laws, penalties, arrests in 2022

Drunk driving in South Africa: laws, penalties, arrests in 2022

Drunk driving is among the biggest road safety threats in South Africa. According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), drunk driving accounts for about 27.1% of fatal motor vehicle accidents in South Africa. Are you familiar with the country's drunk driving laws, penalties, and arrest procedures? Read on to discover the repercussions of driving under the influence in South Africa.

Drunk driving in South Africa
A person drinking while driving. Photo: pexels.com, @energepic.com
Source: UGC

Like many other countries, many South Africans have been shown to drive while intoxicated. This often results in injuries, deaths, imprisonments, and hefty fines.

Everything you need to know about drunk driving in South Africa

Here is everything you need to know about driving under the influence in South Africa.

What is drunk driving?

What is the DUI meaning? The abbreviation stands for driving under the influence and is also known as driving while intoxicated. Basically, it is an offence that involves a person getting behind the wheel of a car, truck, motorcycle, or any other motorized vehicle after consuming alcohol.

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The offence involves operating the machines mentioned above with a blood alcohol content that exceeds the maximum set by a country's laws.

What is the alcohol driving limit in South Africa?

The current maximum BAC allowed by the South African laws is 0.05 grams per 100 millilitres. The breath alcohol concentration allowed is currently 0.24 grams per 1000 millilitres of blood. The national government is currently considering amending the law to a zero-tolerance one.

If passed, the proposed amendments would mean that drivers are not allowed to have any amount of alcohol in their blood or breath. The proposal has elicited mixed feelings from individuals and civil society groups.

How is a drunk driving test conducted?

Once a driver is selected for a DUI test, the testing officer can oversee one of three globally approved drunk driving tests.

  • Field sobriety tests: This test is administered at the time of the arrest. While there are numerous field sobriety tests, only three standardized ones are approved worldwide. These are the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), the one-leg stand (OLS), and the walk and turn (WAT).
  • Breathalyzer test: This one is conducted with the help of a machine known as a breathalyzer. The driver blows into a machine that then calculates their breath alcohol content.
  • Blood testing: This is arguably the most scientific and most accurate DUI test. Blood testing is always done at a police station or a hospital by a certified medic.

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What happens if I refuse to get tested for alcohol in my blood?

how many drunk driving deaths were reported in 2022?
Alcohol in glasses. Photo: pexels.com, @Prem Pal Singh Tanwar
Source: UGC

If you are arrested on suspicion of DUI and refuse to have a blood sample drawn, the arresting officer will take measures. They will fill out a form known as SAP308 and hand it over to the medical practitioner.

This form authorizes the practitioner to draw a blood sample, failure to which they will be charged with obstruction of justice. If the medical practitioner draws your blood without this form, it will constitute assault.

How is one chosen for a drunk driving test?

Before one is asked to provide a blood sample for alcohol content testing, the police officer will do a behavioural evaluation. The evaluation involves assessing the driver's physical appearance, speech, presence of vomit, open fly, facial redness, and smell.

Is drunk driving a criminal offence in South Africa?

Yes, drunk driving is a criminal offence in South Africa. The National Road Traffic Act (NRTA), Act 93 of 1996 (as amended), describes it as the offence of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drug having a narcotic effect or with an excessive amount of alcohol in blood or breath.

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The act states that no person shall on a public road;

(a) drive a vehicle; or
(b) occupy the 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.

Will I have a criminal record if I am found guilty of drunk driving?

Yes, you will have a criminal record up that will remain with you for up to 10 years.

What happens if you get caught driving drunk?

How long do you go to jail for drunk driving? You can be imprisoned for up to 6 years or have your driver's license suspended. You could also have to pay a fine not less than 2000 ZAR. The court will have the discretion to suspend your sentence if you do not drink and drive again.

How do you win a drunk driving case in South Africa?

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When trying to figure out how to win a drunk driving case in South Africa, it is important to engage the services of a specialized attorney. Doing this will raise your chances of escaping a prison term and possibly even a criminal record.

What about a drunk driving first offence in South Africa?

Like other crimes, the first offence of drunk driving in South Africa in 2022 attracts a lighter penalty than repeat offences. Here is a quick look.

  • First-time offender: License suspension for at least six months
  • Second-time offenders: License suspension for five years
  • Third-time offender: License suspension for at least 10 years

How many drunk driving deaths were reported in 2022?

DUI meaning
A wrecked car. Photo: pexels.com, @Karl Solano
Source: UGC

In January 2022, 637 fatal crashes were recorded, accounting for 774 fatalities. Out of these, The Road Traffic Management Corporation reported that drunk driving accounted for 27.1%. 961 offenders were arrested in January alone.

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How to prevent drunk driving

Here are some simple measures one can take to avoid drunk driving.

  • Choose a non-drinking person to be the designated driver whenever you go out.
  • If you go out alone, do not take alcohol. Go for non-alcoholic beverages instead.
  • Do not feel pressured to take alcohol.
  • If you go out drinking alone, use a ride-hailing service back home. There are plenty of these, including Uber and Lyft.

Drunk driving continues to be a menace on South African roads. The fact that almost a third of all road fatalities come from DUI says a lot about the vice. The South African government is taking elaborate steps to reduce the accidents resulting from people driving when drunk.

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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Source: Briefly News

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