One beer might be enough to jail you
Drivers might soon rid their vocabulary of terminology such as "happy hour" and "one for the road" if the government's sobering proposed amendments to the National Road Traffic Act pass muster.
The Department of Transport has gazetted a bill intended to reduce the maximum allowed for a driver's blood-alcohol level from 0.05g/100ml to 0.02g/100ml.
According to Gary Ronald, spokesman for the Automobile Association, the bill, if passed into law, means that a driver will no longer be able to enjoy a full 340ml glass of beer an hour before driving.
"The 0.02g/100ml is equal to one unit of alcohol, which is how much alcohol an average person can get out of their system in an hour.
"If you convert it to drink, 0.02g/100ml is equal to a 25ml tot of whisky or brandy, whereas 0.05g/100ml is probably equal to two-and-a-half tots - it's about 75ml of your red wine, which will be half a glass per hour."
Ronald welcomed the amendments.
"There is a general rule that drivers can follow which is one drink an hour and then nothing for another hour before you drive and you should be alright," he said.
Tiyani Rikhotso, spokesman for the Department of Transport, said the bill is intended to stop public transport drivers from drinking alcohol.
"Research indicates that at least 14000 people die on our roads each year and that translates into 13 deaths daily due to car crashes," said Rikhotso.
He added that his department also wants to impose a two-year "probation" period on new drivers before issuing them with a driver's licence to "create a new breed of South Africa driver".
"During this period we will monitor and scrutinise the behaviour of the person issued with a provisional driver's licence," said Rikhotso.
But the Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use poked holes in the bill, saying that the 0.05g/100ml blood-alcohol level was internationally acceptable.
Adrian Botha, spokesman for the association, said the department should instead focus on enforcing the law.
"It's the same thing as saying we are going to stop 13-year-olds from drinking by increasing the drinking age from 18 to 21," said Botha.
"Making the government feel good by changing the levels is not going to fix the problem. It's very easy to change the level but if you're not enforcing it, it is a joke."
The public has until August 18 to comment on the bill.