As Easter weekend approaches, South African’s will make their yearly migration to holiday destinations to spend time with their families and loved ones. While many will be enjoying the traditional pickled fish, chocolate eggs and hot cross buns, others will lose their lives on the road.
According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) the Easter road death toll dropped from a staggering 241 in 2013, to only 193 in 2014. This is an indication that great headway has been made to reduce the road death toll in South Africa, unfortunately speed and alcohol remain the main reasons for road accidents. It is estimated that around 330 motorists were arrested over last year’s Easter weekend for drunken driving alone.
Wandile Dumakude, legal expert at LIPCO Law for All, explains that many South African’s think they know their drinking limits or have quick fix solutions to sober up, but these limits usually do not measure up against those set by law or by the human body. “A person is over the legal limit if his breath alcohol content is in excess of 0.24mg per 1,000ml or his blood alcohol concentration in excess of 0.05g per 100ml. The rule of thumb for any motorist is a maximum of 1 unit per alcohol per hour. Biologically the human body can only process one unit every hour, despite drinking lots of water, strong black coffee or taking a cold shower. These tricks do little to help sober a person up,” says Dumakude.
But what does this mean in layman’s terms? Dumakude explains that “a 75ml glass of your favourite wine will amount to about one unit. But be cautious, because that means a 250ml glass will amount to 3, 3 units. A spirit cooler or beer amounts to roughly about 1,25 units, while a 25ml tot of whiskey or brandy to a unit. Cocktails and shooters are a bit more tricky and dangerous, as one glass could easily amount to 2-4 units.”
Many South African’s are aware of the fact that many drivers are let off the hook due to unreliable blood alcohol specimens, and fail to comprehend the seriousness of the crime. If found guilty, a person faces 6 years imprisonment or a R120 000 fine, a suspended driver’s licence and criminal record. That is not even mentioning the repercussions should someone die as a result of a road accident. “The real reason people should not drive under the influence is the fact that they might cause the death of someone. You stand to face a charge of culpable homicide, and prosecutors are increasingly accusing motorists of murder.” Dumakude warns motorists.
What to do if a person is arrested for Drunken Driving:
1 Remain calm and collected. Do not resist arrest or become violent, even if force is used. You don’t want to prejudice your chances to be released on bail
2. You have the right to be treated with dignity and to remain silent Pay attention to whether you are informed of your rights (if at all) and other things said by the arresting officer.. You must however provide your full names. You have the right to phone one person (A friend/relative or Attorney).
3. You may not refuse to provide a blood sample. The district surgeon, a registered nurse, or prison medical officer will take a blood specimen within 2 hours of arrest and submit to the state laboratory for analysis.
4. Follow the instructions of the arresting officer. Chances are good that you will be kept at the police station until you have sobered up, and you may be released with a warning to appear before court within 48 hours. You may also be kept behind bars.
5. It is important to note the details and the name of the police station you are in, the case number for your case, the name of the investigating officer. Your attorney will require the info.
Considering that 65% of road accidents are related to alcohol abuse, let’s hope South African’s are responsible and put safety first this Easter weekend.