Thanks to Covid19, and support from the unpopular police chief Bheki Cele, Transport minister Fikile Mbalula’s promise to totally ban drink driving in January, came a step closer to becoming Law with the publishing of the The National Road Traffic Amendment Bill on Monday, which was approved by Cabinet in draft form in March. The new law would drop the permissible blood alcohol level for anyone driving a motor vehicle to zero.
The draft bill which had broad support when it was approved by Cabinet in March, unsurprisingly has the support of police chief Bheki Cele, who has already upset many with his draconian prohibition on alcohol and tobacco during the lockdown. The new law which takes an extreme line on drink driving levels is touted to help make law enforcement easier. If that means just throw anyone who smells of liquor or has been anywhere near a drink in the last few hours in jail, then it seems their job will indeed be easier, and the bribes bigger and more plentiful.
The amended law leaves the penalties for drink driving unchanged, but removes any mention of a blood alcohol limit, effectively meaning full criminal penalties for people caught with any discernible level of alcohol in their systems.
Despite delays caused by Covid19, the draft law which was released on Monday, effectively seeks to allow only people with no alcohol allowed to be detected in their blood or on their breath, to operate motor vehicles.
The current law states the permitted level of alcohol for drivers is less than 0.05 grams per 100 ml, or for professional drivers less than 0.02 mg per 100 ml, when measured in a blood sample. When using the breathalyser, the level is 0.24 mg per 1,000 ml, and for professional drivers, 0.10 mg per 1,000 ml.
The scrapping of the level effectively introduces “a total prohibition for the use and consumption of alcohol by all motor vehicle operators on South Africa’s public roads” according to the Bill’s explanatory memorandum.