The Automobile Association (AA) has stated that proposed changes to the National Road Traffic Act, which want to reduce the legal blood alcohol limit for drivers to zero, will “criminalise innocent motorists and is unlikely to have the results authorities think it will”.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced the planned changes in October, when he said that strict new rules on alcohol and driving were needed.
Mbalula said no person “shall drive on a public road or occupy the driver’s seat of a vehicle, the engine of which is running, while there is any concentration of alcohol in any specimen of blood taken from any part of a person’s body”, as reported by BusinessTech.
Currently, the legal blood alcohol content limit for drivers is 0.05g per 100ml, while the breath alcohol concentration is 0.24g per 1,000ml.
“These proposed changes are concerning on a number of levels and although the stated reason for the change is the promotion of road safety, within the current framework of traffic law enforcement, nothing will change, except that innocent drivers are likely to be criminalised,” said the AA.
Medicine which contains alcohol
An example of a scenario in which this could happen is someone who has taken medication which contains alcohol, and then drives a car.
These drivers will now be arrested, charged and potentially prosecuted for “having a small dose of alcohol in their blood while their driving ability has not been impaired”.
“The proposed amendment is again making motorists soft targets for traffic law enforcers, and that the desired outcomes of improved road safety will not be met,” said the AA.
“How will traffic law enforcement change to accommodate this proposed amendment? And, perhaps more importantly, how will a single piece of legislation change driver’s attitudes when nothing else around traffic law enforcement changes at the same time?”
It added that without proper actions, these amendments will not have an impact on road fatality statistics.
“Simply drafting legislation does not equate to meaningful road safety intervention and other more important steps must be taken. These include a more intense, widespread and constant focus on national road safety education, an increase in the number of traffic law enforcement officers, and improved prosecution of current drunk driver cases.”
“Another important aspect of effective traffic policing is to ensure law enforcement is visible and active around known areas of drinking and driving, and that proper action is taken against offenders.”
The AA said it will make submissions to Parliament on the proposed amendments before the 20 November deadline, statings its views.
“We cannot have a situation where authorities are amending legislation in the hope that this will change our shocking crash statistics.”