Different driver mindset necessary as new drunk-driving law takes effect

Different driver mindset necessary as new drunk-driving law takes effect

Anton Davies, Head of Client Solutions at Nedbank Insurance. 

As South Africa officially moved to level 3 of the national lockdown on 1 June 2020, the country also saw the reopening of liquor stores. In the same week, the healthcare fraternity recorded a slight increase in the management of cases related to alcohol consumption, according to Arrive Alive. Sadly, drunk driving resulting in fatal crashes and incidents of pedestrians being knocked down are some of the issues that were reported with the gradual resumption of some economic activity.

With a reported 58% of road traffic deaths in South Africa linked to alcohol consumption, according to a recent World Health Organisation Global Status Report on Road Safety, road fatalities continue to cost the economy billions of rands each year.

In response to curbing the spread of Covid-19, the national lockdown and ban on the sale of alcohol in the initial stages contributed to a significant decline in the incidences of alcohol-related trauma cases, but the occurrence of the recent cases indicates a need for a more long-term and systematic approach.

Interestingly, and while no direct correlation is inferred, the lifting on the ban of alcohol sales coincided with the introduction of the new drunk-driving law, which also came into effect from June 2020. It will impose stricter conditions on drivers with the introduction of the 0% legal blood-alcohol limit.

This is a bold move from past government regulations that allowed for the maximum alcohol level of 0,05% per 100 ml in a blood sample and a legal breath alcohol limit of less than 0,24mg/1 000 ml. This law is implemented in conjunction with the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act, which will see through the demerit system and aims to encourage motorists to change their behaviour and reduce road carnage.

Drivers can expect several changes where car insurance is concerned. The 0% blood alcohol limit indicates the state’s zero tolerance towards the consumption of any alcoholic substance, and this means that insurers will be well within their rights to reject any claim where intake of substances is involved. Data from the demerit system will also allow the insurance industry to identify high-risk drivers, which will in turn increase their respective premiums.

While insurers take on the risk for clients to make sure that they have peace of mind when the unexpected occurs, this does not mean they can abandon their responsibility and liability.

This is why we continue to build incentives into different offerings to encourage better care of personal belongings, more awareness of driving habits and, thus reducing claims and saving on premiums. This is also intended to help clients to see the value of staying within limits and shifting their mindsets to see insurance differently.

If there is one critical lesson that we can all learn from the initial hard lockdown period, it is that drinking in the comfort of your own home is one of a few ways of doing things differently. While no one is proposing that the fun stops, there needs to be an awareness that the one beer or glass of wine we were so comfortable having before, now pushes us over the limit and this will have dire consequences.

As a result, the face of get-togethers will need to change and adapt to the new status quo as more planning and less spontaneity becomes important. This is where e-hailing services such as Uber, Bolt and other take-me-home options (some even included with your insurance policy) will also play a bigger role for a night on the town.

South Africa still ranks high among countries with the worst number of road fatalities in the world and the country needs long-term interventions involving firm law enforcement, among other measures. The new drunk-driving law is a welcome development that calls on more concerted partnerships between government, regulators and the private sector and an even greater responsibility on road users.

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