A 0% BAC not the answer
The proposed amendments to the National Road Traffic Act to reduce the legal blood alcohol limit to zero indicates that government officials are aware of the drunk driving scourge on South African roads but may not fully understand what is needed to effectively change it.
The managing director of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, says changing the BAC limit is unlikely to have the desired result. “A driver who is not deterred by the current level and the consequent penalties is not going to hesitate when driving drunk with a 0% BAC level. The driver’s behaviour needs to change and this relies on educating drivers and implementing stricter penalties.
“Driver behaviour will only change if drivers have the desire and motivation to change their behaviour. Motivation to change can be cultivated by educating drivers about the mistake of their actions. MasterDrive has successfully educated its clients on the extent that alcohol consumption affects one’s reaction time, vision and general attitude toward safe driving. Many alcoholic beverage companies expende great time and money in awareness campaigns as well.”
The government would likely achieve greater results if as much effort was placed into awareness campaigns. “If drivers understand how drastically their driving competency is affected, this could create the motivation to change. By following a similar approach to that of MasterDrive, it would allow offenders to see the consequences of their actions with ‘the pain’ of a real alcohol-induced crash occurring first.”
Once government has a strategy in place to educate drivers on the danger of drunk driving, the consequences need to be strengthened. “If more time was spent on the legal consequences of drunk driving than the legislation that attempts to stop it, South Africa could see better results. If drivers clearly understand that the penalties could impact their entire life and are aware that they will face these penalties if they are caught, this is when we could see the change that is needed.
“Real change depends on understanding the motivations behind why someone drinks and drives despite the current legislation and then making changes to legislation that do have the potential to affect change. If a driver is not wavered by the current BAC limit, a higher level is unlikely to yield the necessary results.”
There is clear need to place more focus on ending drunk driving on South African roads. “The way to do this successfully, however, is yet to be determined but a 0% BAC is unlikely to achieve this,” says Herbert.
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