Drinking and Driving – What the Law Says


Driving when drunk is a criminal offence in South Africa. Studies show that those arrested for this often suffer severely in terms of health, finances, job, and career prospects. 

Driving under the influence means having a high level of concentration of alcohol in your blood or breath while operating a vehicle.  The legal limit is one unit of alcohol per hour, which equates to 10ml of pure alcohol, based on an adult weighing 68kg. Therefore, if you weigh less than this, your body will need more time to process the same amount of alcohol.

How Do I Know If I Am Over The Limit?

The following is an approximate breakdown of alcohol units per drink type:

  • 1 x 75ml glass of wine = 1 unit

  • 1 x 25ml tot of spirits = 1 unit

  • 1 x shot/shooter = ½ unit in most instances

  • 1 x spirit cooler = about 1.25 units

  • 1 x beer = 1.5 units or possibly more

  • 1 x cider = 2 units

  • 1 x 250ml glass of wine = 3.3 units

  • 1 x cocktail = Between 2 and 4 units

 

What Should I Do If I Am Over The Limit?

There are no quick fixes to being over the limit because your liver needs time to process the alcohol. Drinking coffee, taking a cold shower, eating fatty foods or drinking a litre of water won’t counteract the effects of alcohol on your body.  So it’s best to restrict your intake so you remain sober in the eyes of the law. 

 

If you are over the limit, don’t try and drive – rather call an e-hailing service like Uber or Bolt, or phone a friend or family member for assistance.  

 

What Happens If I Am Caught Driving Under The Influence?

If you are caught in an official roadblock and identified as being over the limit following a breathalyser test, the possible consequences may be that you are : 

  • Arrested and charged for being under the influence.

  • Detained for further evaluation and alcohol testing at an alcohol testing centre.

  • Obliged to provide blood samples. Here you may request your medical practitioner to be present and that a sealed syringe and needle is used to take blood. This sample will be sent to a state laboratory for scientific analysis to estimate the quantity of alcohol in your blood. 

  • Held in custody until you are released on bail or make your first appearance in court, which could mean spending 48 to 72 hours in a holding cell. 

  • Informed of your right to institute bail proceedings at a police station before your court appearance. 

  • Sentenced in court varying from imprisonment of up to six years, receiving a fine between R2,000 and R120,000, or the suspension of your driver’s licence. 

  • Given a criminal record for drunk driving up to ten years. 

 

You may also incur additional charges including those for reckless, negligent, or inconsiderate driving on a public road.

 

Other Negative Effects of Drunk Driving

In addition to the legal ramifications associated with driving under the influence, you could also face severe physical consequences.  Alcohol significantly slows reaction time, distorts vision, and the effects of a heavy night of drinking can affect your driving ability the next morning because you may still be over the legal limit. After only one unit of alcohol, your chances of being in an accident are doubled. When at the legal limit you are four times more likely to be in an accident.

If you are tempted to drive under influence during the festive season, think again ensuring you enter 2020 safely – on the right side of the law.  

 

Disclaimer: This information is for educational, or entertainment purposes only. It must not be construed as advice, legal, financial, or otherwise. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of this information.

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