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Ex-RTMC boss: 7 answers to drunk driving

2015-02-06 10:09

SEVEN WAYS TO BEAT DRUNK DRIVING: Wheels24 reader and former chair of the Road Traffic Management Corporation board JOHN SAMPSON (inset) lists steps to kill drunk driving. Image: RTT/ Shutterstock


Let me establish my credentials. My name is John Sampson (Pr Eng). I am a road safety expert, have 40 years’ experience in the field, and, amongst other senior positions in road traffic, was previously chairperson of the Board of the Road Traffic Management Corporation and president of the South African Road Federation.

The opinions I am about to express are however my own and I do not speak on behalf on any organisation.


It's essential to recognise that drunk driving is the biggest single contributor to road fatalities in South Africa. I have seen unreleased morgue reports that 60-70% of drivers and pedestrians killed in road crashes have a blood alcohol (BA) content in excess of 0.08g/100ml.

Take into account that around 40% of all fatalities in SA are pedestrians, it becomes clear it's not only drivers that are of concern.

We have a serious problem but what should we do about it? Well, before taking knee-jerk and futile actions like setting the allowable blood alcohol level at zero, we need to know the facts:


Fact 1 - One or two drinks won't affect your driving
Having one or two drinks at a time is not only good for you, it has little effect on your driving ability (no effect if you recognize you are slightly impaired and drive accordingly). A graph on Wikipedia illustrates the point as well as the stages of inebriation.

• Fact 2 - No evidence
There is no evidence, not even from blood tests on dead drivers and pedestrians in the morgue, that drivers with BA below 0.05g/100 ml are any more responsible for causing crashes than someone with zero alcohol.

• Fact 3 - Abuse and bribery is rife
That traffic officers are human beings too. They are intelligent and know a dangerous driver when they see one. If they are asked to enforce a zero alcohol limit, knowing they are not improving road safety, that they are not only wasting their time and efforts but are also likely to encounter significant abuse.

They will be far less willing to enforce an unfair law (and probably far more willing to let minor offenders off for a small amount of cash – not right of course but a reality).  

Fact 4 - Zero limit pointless
Having a law with zero BA will not solve the problem. So what should be done?


Below is a list of seven steps that could curb drunk driving as well as drunk pedestrians and properly enforce the law:

1 Make driving with a BA of 0.05 to 0.08g/100 ml subject to a fine of about R200.
2 Make driving with a BA of 0.08 to 0.12g/100 ml subject to a fine of R1000 with a written warning that is kept on your driving record (eNatis) for three years (these record also being available to your insurer).
3 Make it illegal for a pedestrian on a roadway, other than on a pavement or legal pedestrian crossing, to have a blood alcohol content in excess of 0.08g/100 ml. Minimum fine of R200.
4 Arrest a driver, or pedestrian on a roadway, with a BA in excess of 0.12 g/100 ml. He/she must appear in court.
5 Make breath-alcohol testing legal but also apply a BA test for those cases with an equivalent BA above 0.12g/100ml.     
6 Visibly and dramatically increase the enforcement of drunken driving.
7 Make a breathalyser test mandatory for any driver or pedestrian involved in a collision resulting in injuries or deaths.

Vote on Wheels24's 'zero alcohol' poll, write in the Readers' Comments section below or  email us at Wheels24 with you thoughts. As did John Sampson.

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