The drinking and driving law could get a lot tougher as the government contemplates a zero alcohol limit proposal.
John Motsatsing, chief director of road regulation in the department of transport, said the government is seriously considering imposing a total alcohol ban for drivers.
“Irrespective of how many drinks you’ve had, you cannot judge if you are over the alcohol limit because you are not an expert,” he said. “So why can we not say no drinking at all if you are driving?”
Micah Reddy, a history honours student interviewed while having a drink at the PiG – the Postgraduate Club on East Campus – said: “The state shouldn’t be a nanny state. Let reasonable people be reasonable.”
Given the massive death rate on roads, Reddy sees the need for tight regulations in the interest of public safety. “But it’s reasonable to have a limit, not a total ban,” he said. He added that the government should “rather spend the money on enforcement than tighten up the regulation”.
The limit in South Africa is 0,05g of alcohol per 100ml of blood, according to the National Road Traffic Act. This roughly means that for a person weighing 70kg, the legal limit can be reached by consuming two cans of beer.
One of the staff members at the PiG said their business may be affected if the proposal is approved.
Lowering the limit is not a solution, according to ecology masters student Don Tie. “I don’t think the problem is the current limit. The problem is if you are exceeding the limit.” Like many students, Tie has been stopped at a roadblock, but he wasn’t breathalysed.
The blood alcohol content calculations depend on other factors such as weight and the amount of alcohol in a drink. Reddy says a zero limit would be “more democratic” in that sense because everyone would be held to the same standard.
Some countries such as Norway and China adopt a 0,02g/ml blood alcohol content limit, which allows a margin for measurement errors to avoid criminalising people for having medicines or products that contain low levels of alcohol like chocolate liquor.