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Uncover the truth about driving under the influence (DUI) in South Africa.

Learn about the strict laws, legal limits, and severe penalties for offenders. Find out how to estimate your blood-alcohol concentration and make responsible choices for safer roads. This is your guide to prioritising your safety and the safety of others, helping you avoid the devastating consequences of drunk driving.

Blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) limit vs. breathalyser readings

In South Africa, the legal BAC limit for drivers stands at 0.05 grams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, as specified by the National Road Traffic Act. This limit applies to all drivers, irrespective of their age or driving experience. It is crucial to understand that this BAC limit is standardised throughout the country, and surpassing it constitutes an offence, leading to legal repercussions.

During a traffic stop, law enforcement officers frequently rely on breathalyser devices to measure a driver’s BAC swiftly and accurately. The legal BAC limit in South Africa is 0.05 grams per 100 millilitres of blood, which corresponds to a breathalyser reading of 0.24 milligrams of alcohol per 1000 millilitres of breath. These devices play a crucial role in enforcing the law and ensuring safer roads by detecting alcohol-impaired drivers effectively.

Penalties for driving under the influence

Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence in South Africa, and the penalties for such an act can be severe. The specific consequences may vary depending on the circumstances of the offence, the driver’s BAC level, and whether it is a first-time or repeat offence.

  • First-time offenders: If a driver’s BAC is found to be above the legal limit but below 0.08 grams per 100 millilitres of blood, they may encounter a fine, suspension of their driver’s licence, or both, per the National Road Traffic Act. Additionally, the court holds the authority to impose a prison sentence, usually limited to a maximum of six years for first-time offenders.
  • Repeat offenders: Drivers with a history of repeated offences or those found with a BAC surpassing 0.08 grams per 100 millilitres of blood face even more severe consequences. Alongside heavier fines and extended licence suspensions, they may be obligated to serve a mandatory prison sentence, the duration of which is determined by the court, following the National Road Traffic Act.
  • Causing injury or death: If a driver under the influence of alcohol causes injury or death to another person, they can be charged with a more severe offence, such as culpable homicide or murder, as stated in the National Road Traffic Act. In such cases, the penalties can be much more severe, with the potential for lengthy prison sentences.
  • Professional drivers: Professional drivers, such as bus or truck drivers, are held to even higher standards. For them, the BAC limit is reduced to 0.02 grams per 100 millilitres of blood, as prescribed by the National Road Traffic Act. Violating this limit can lead to severe consequences, including the loss of their professional driving permits and, subsequently, their livelihood.

Driving under the influence of alcohol is an incredibly risky and irresponsible behaviour that not only puts the driver at risk but also endangers other road users. To combat this dangerous practice and ensure safer roads, South Africa has implemented stringent laws outlined in the National Road Traffic Act. Motorists need to be fully aware of the legal BAC limit set at 0.05 grams per 100 millilitres of blood, along with the corresponding breathalyser reading of 0.24 milligrams per 1000 millilitres of breath.

The penalties for driving under the influence can be severe, including fines, licence suspensions, and imprisonment, as stipulated in the National Road Traffic Act. All drivers need to act responsibly and avoid driving the vehicle or occupying the driver’s seat while the engine is running if they have consumed alcohol. Instead, they should arrange for alternative transportation or use designated drivers to ensure the safety of themselves and others on the road. By adhering to the law and making responsible choices, we can all contribute to safer roads and reduce the tragic consequences of drunk driving in South Africa.

WRITTEN BY DARRYL GANTANA

Darryl Gantana is an Attorney at Miller Bosman Le Roux Attorneys.

While every reasonable effort is taken to ensure the accuracy and soundness of the contents of this publication, neither writers of articles nor the publisher will bear any responsibility for the consequences of any actions based on information or recommendations contained herein.  Our material is for informational purposes.

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