NEW STRATEGY NEEDED: The AA will look to tackle drunk driving as drivers do not adhere to the law. Image: iStock
Cape Town - New strategies are required to combat alcohol use by road users, reports the Automobile Association (AA).
The AA said: "The current strategy has not yielded results.
"Despite changes in social attitudes, the rate of positive tests for alcohol in people killed in traffic crashes rose sharply in the first decade of the new millennium. This suggests that many road users are escaping both the enforcement and messaging nets when it comes to alcohol."
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The association said that the Department of Transport could not rely on gradual changes in social attitudes to alcohol and road use, commenting that these did not happen fast enough to prevent a substantial number of road deaths.
Corruption a factor
Licensing corruption was named a potential contributor to the prevalence of drunk driving.
The AA said that a driver who bought or forged their licence starts their driving career in an unlawful way: "Such drivers are less likely to understand their legal responsibilities on the roads and they may not be fully aware of the risks of drinking and driving."
The AA said that the current level of enforcement was not adequate for the scale of South Africa's drunk-driving problem. Approximately 3000 cases of driving under the influence are opened each month, against a driving population believed to be greater than nine million.
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The AA said: "The enforcement rate for alcohol is very low in comparison to the driving population and known rates of alcohol use by road users.
"A nationwide strategy for enforcement is needed, and every major roadblock should routinely include secondary roadblocks on surrounding 'back roads' which drivers may use for avoidance."
Update existing data
Lack of detailed data was also hampering the ability to address alcohol and road use, the AA said: "An example is information on drinking rates by age group – no meaningful data exists from 2000 onwards which could provide answers.
"Part of a new approach would be to urgently commission more detailed alcohol offence rate surveys to update existing data."
Ongoing research was also needed to determine the effectiveness of alcohol messaging.
The Association commented: "South Africa's population is extraordinarily diverse in terms of cultures, languages and education levels. Our concern is whether all South Africans have access to information on alcohol and traffic in a form they can both understand and use.
"Pedestrians in particular have a history of high rates of alcohol use, and further efforts must be made to reach this group."
The AA did not believe that addressing the problems of licensing corruption, enforcement, statistics and messaging was beyond the financial ability of government.
The AA adds: "It is possible that re-prioritising existing spend would be adequate in most cases. What is needed is a plan."