Government motoring ahead with zero-alcohol driving limit

Bill presented to parliament wants to totally ban alcohol for drivers

A driver with any amount of alcohol in his or her blood will be liable for prosecution, according to a new bill tabled by the transport department.                                                                                                                  Image: Netcare 911

A bill released by the transport department on Monday seeks to totally ban the use of alcohol by vehicle operators.

In March, the cabinet approved the submission of the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill of 2019 to parliament. It said that once passed into law, the bill would contribute in reducing the carnage on the country’s roads.

The document states that its intention is to “enhance road traffic safety”.

The bill, which was published on Monday, proposes to amend section 65 of the act by stating that no person on a public road may drive a vehicle or occupy the driver’s seat of a vehicle, the engine of which is running, while there was any concentration of alcohol in any specimen of blood taken.

The section proposes removing reference to any alcohol content in the blood or breath specimen of drivers.

Currently in SA, alcohol content prohibited is not less than 0.05g per 100ml — or in the case of a professional driver, not less than 0.02g per 100ml.

The proposed section states that if in any prosecution for an alleged contravention of a provision of driving a vehicle under influence, it is proved that there was a concentration of alcohol in any specimen of blood taken from any part of the body of the person concerned per 100ml at any time within two hours after the alleged contravention, it shall be presumed — in the absence of evidence to the contrary — that there was such concentration of alcohol, in contravention of the act.

Justice Project SA’s Howard Dembovsky said the proposed amendment removed the confusion that arises about how many beers would make someone be deemed to be under the influence.

However, Dembovsky said he did not know how the proposed amendments would assist in curbing carnage on the roads because law enforcement agencies still needed to prove that there was alcohol in the blood.

He said law enforcement officers cannot convict cases of driving under the influence in large numbers today because they do not put proper cases before court. The proposed change of  the law did not change the requirement that officers need to produce credible evidence of alcohol in someone’s bloodstream.

“I don’t understand how this change is going to improve the conviction rate. The problem we have is that the conviction rate is extremely low,” he said.

Dembovsky said nothing would change until the laboratories that test samples, the police and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) got their act together.

BY ERNEST MABUZA

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