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SA is world's worst drunk-driving country

2015-12-01 15:47

ROAD DEATHS APPALLING: South Africa tops the list of drunk-driving related deaths in the world, reports the World Health Organisation. Image: AFP / Carl De Souza

Cape Town - With the holiday season approaching and given the country's appalling annual road death statistics, we are constantly reminded of South Africa's high rate of drunk-driving related deaths. 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), South Africa tops the list of drunk-driving related deaths in the world.

According to the latest Global Status report on Road Safety for 2015, 58% of deaths are alcohol related.

Drunk-driving fatalities

Dawie Buys, manager of insurance risks at the South African Insurance Association (SAIA), warns South Africans to take heed of this shocking statistic and to never get behind the wheel or drive with anyone who exceeds the alcohol limit of 0.05 gram per 100mm.

Buys said: “As we approach the 2015/16 holiday season, a time when drunk driving fatalities historically spike, it must be top of mind for all motorists that drinking and driving is simply not an option, as motorists literally hold their lives and the lives of other road users in their hands.”

According to the report, you have a 26.6% chance of dying in a road crash in Africa. The second most dangerous region on the WHO's list is the Eastern Mediterranean - 19.9% chance of being killed on the road.

Global road deaths: How does SA compare?

According to the WHO: “South Africa remains one of the more dangerous countries for road safety, with 25.1 deaths per 100 000 population. The report noted however, that there has been a steady improvement in danger levels since a peak of 33 deaths per 100 000 people, recorded in 2006.”

Apart from alcohol abuse, the major causes for fatal road deaths are speeding, not wearing seatbelts, lack of child restraints and no helmets for motorcyclists.

Buys adds that the report estimates that 7.8% of South Africa’s GDP is lost due to crashes on the country’s roads: “The insurance industry currently insures around R46 billion worth of cars, with 70% of motor claims being accident-related and in the majority of all accidents, alcohol plays a role. Despite whether motorists have extensive motor insurance cover, if they drink and drive and this is proven, they will not be able to claim for damages and will be held liable for their own financial loss, as well as that of the person or vehicle affected.”

He advises that drink driving prevention in South Africa must be a shared responsibility between motorists and law enforcement.

Buys said: “The Global Status Report of the WHO states that while South Africa has national laws to combat drunk driving, the country scored a low 4 out of 10 in its capacity to enforce them, the speed limit enforcement scored 3 out of 10, and seat-belt laws scored even worse in terms of enforcement: 2 out of 10."

“Real action from our law enforcers is necessary. If the drink driving law is properly enforced, as has been done in the UK, US and Australia, we will see results.”

Click here for full country profiles by the WHO

What is being done to curb the carnage?

The Department of Transport (DoT), working with the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) is in the process of finalising the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act to, it claims, reduce the carnage on roads.

Buys said: “AARTO is currently in operation on a pilot basis in the Johannesburg. Tshwane and Ekurhuleni Metro Councils as well as the DoT and RTIA are hoping to introduce the Act nationally in the second quarter of 2016. SAIA welcomes and supports the AARTO initiative. Its aim is to adjust motorists’ attitude towards the rules of the road and curb road accidents.

"This will include penalising drivers and operators who are guilty of infringements or offences through the imposition of demerit points, leading to the suspension and cancellation of driving licences, professional driving permits or operator cards; as well as rewarding law-abiding behaviour by reducing demerit points if infringements or offences are not committed over a specific period.”

Bribery, corruption, lack of law enforcement

Buys said that such initiatives are only possible with zero bribery and corruption from both motorists and law enforcement officers and as such, calls for stricter law enforcement on drink driving to ensure road safety.

Buys said: “In addition, there are limited forensic chemical laboratories in the country to effectively process the blood samples, creating a backlog of tests to be processed. In January 2015 after the festive season, new cases from this period were added to the backlog still awaiting processing.”

The World Health Organisation rates South Africa's roads:

Read the Global Status report on Road Safety for 2015


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