(This article is to be read in conjunction with the Editorial Note below)
The rule of drinking and driving is simple, don’t do it. It is a proven fact that your driving is impaired after even one unit of alcohol, so it is safer to not drink at all when you know you will be driving. Driving under the influence is a criminal offence and it only takes one point over the limit to seal your fate – which could mean up to six years in prison.
“Drunk driving is one of the biggest threats to Road Safety in South Africa,” says Gary Ronald, Head of Public Affairs for the AA (Automobile Association of South Africa). “More than 21,000 people have been arrested on our roads in the last year as a result of drinking and driving, and it has been shown that 50% of people who die on our roads are over the limit.”
So how exactly do we define what the limit is? In South Africa, the legal limit is a breath alcohol content of 0.24mg per 1,000ml, or a blood alcohol limit of 0.05g per 100ml, a fact that should be burnt into every motorist’s memory [however see Editor’s note below concerning government’s “zero blood-alcohol limit” proposal]. This begs the question: ‘what does this mean for me, and what specifically constitutes being over the limit?’
The rule of thumb is a maximum of one unit of alcohol per hour, which constitutes 10ml of pure alcohol, based on an adult weighing 68kg. Our bodies can process only one unit of alcohol each hour. However, it is important to be aware that if you weigh less than 68kg your body will need more time to process the same amount of alcohol.
What does one unit represent in layman’s terms?
- It is equal to two thirds of a beer or spirit cooler with 5% alcohol content.
- For those who drink wine, 75ml of red or white wine per hour with an alcohol content of 12% to 14% is acceptable.
- Whisky and brandy connoisseurs can drink up to one 25ml tot of alcohol per hour.
In case you are wondering if there are any quick-fix solutions, drinking coffee to get sober is a myth, as is taking a cold shower or drinking a litre of water. Once the alcohol is in your system your liver is going to need time to process it, and restricting yourself to only one unit per hour will give your body the time it needs to stay sober in the eyes of the law.
“Alcohol significantly slows reaction time and distorts your vision, and the effects of a heavy night of drinking could well affect your driving ability the next morning, and you may still even be over the legal limit. After only one unit of alcohol, your chances of being in an accident are doubled, and when you are at the legal limit of 0.24mg, you are four times more likely to be in an accident. At the end of the day, motorists need to ask if it’s really worth risking the consequences before drinking and driving,” says Ronald.
Editorial Note (August 2015):
The aforementioned article was written and published by Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) and contains insight into the topic of driving whilst under the influence of alcohol.
The Legal Limit in South Africa for professional drivers i.e. people who drive for a living eg. Bus Drivers, Courier and Truck Drivers, is 0.02 % B.A.C (0.10mg/l brAC) 0.02g per 100ml
Note however, that the Department of Transport has proposed a zero blood-alcohol limit in General Notice 77 of 2015 of 28 January 2015.
Important: Readers hereof are advised to ensure that they are fully appraised of the legal limits which apply from time to time. The information contained herein is advisory in nature only and aimed strictly at drawing the reader’s attention to the risks attendant to driving whilst under the influence of alcohol. Any reliance hereon shall be entirely at the reader’s risk and no liability shall attach to either the authors hereof and / or employers, associates, domain / website owners etc.