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Prohibition for South African drivers?

Lockdown restrictions might have impacted the publics drinking habits and patterns, but once South Africa’s strict new drunk-driving laws have been passed, drivers won’t be allowed to drink alcohol at all.

In January, Transport minister Fikile Mbalula confirmed that his department is moving ahead with 0% legal blood-alcohol limit, meaning that drivers will not be allowed to drink alcohol and drive at all. The lowering of the legal limit is seen in the context of a road death crisis that sees around 14 000 people dying on our roads every year.

How will it affect insurance?

Virtually every car insurance policy contains a clause excluding liability if the driver was under the influence. However, it is difficult to determine whether people were over the legal limit and if their driving ability was in fact impaired. The new zero-tolerance approach will remove this grey area, according to an article in the Citizen.

“This has serious implications for South African drivers. If you are involved in an accident after having even a single drink, you will not just find yourself on the wrong side of the law, but it can also have a major impact on your insurance,” according to Wynand van Vuuren, King Price’s customer experience partner. This means that if you break the law by driving with alcohol in your blood, your insurer will have no obligation to meet your claim. It is also likely that your premium will increase significantly, as you will be considered a higher risk.

Marius Neethling, manager of personal lines underwriting at Santam, agrees: “Our policy is clear: if policyholders are using the vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs, or their blood or breath alcohol concentration exceeds the legal limit, they are not covered by the policy for any vehicle accidents that occur.”

Natasha Kawulesar, head of client relations at Outsurance also explains that the new law places a much stricter onus on consumers to ensure that, if they are enjoying an alcoholic beverage, they have arranged for an alternate driver who has, of course, abstained from drinking alcohol.  According to Kawulesar the result of fewer people drinking, and driving should result in reduced accidents and as a result reduced claims which will allow not only for cheaper insurance premiums, but also a safer South Africa.

The question remains: will the new regulations change attitudes on the road or translate into any behaviour change? Will those who ignored the 0.05% limit now stop drinking and driving because of the zero % limitation?

Perhaps the honourable Minister should consider all the facts related to road accidents, rather than focus on one only. According to the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA), a third of road fatalities are pedestrians. Are we going to do blood tests for jaywalkers too?

An article published on the DSC Attorneys website provides a balanced perspective on the eight leading causes of road accidents.

We fully endorse any logical and workable steps to curb the horrific figures which sees South Africa’s road accident figures way above the world average. Unfortunately, changing legislation where problems occur appears to be a more popular approach than applying what is perfectly sensible and workable.

Click here to read more feedback from insurers as published in the Citizen.

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