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Drinking and driving – know the facts and consequences

Learn all you need to know about drinking and driving laws in South Africa.

by: Cathy Marston | 05 Dec 2013
Drinking and driving laws in South Africa

Here is what you need to know about drinking and driving over the festive season – what the law states, how much alcohol is actually in your drinks, what the consequences may be if you are caught.

How much alcohol can I have and drive?
The law states that you must have less than 0.05g/100ml in your blood or less than 0.24mg/1000ml if you hope to pass a breathalyser test.

How much alcohol is in my drinks?
1 unit of alcohol is equivalent to 0.02g blood alcohol. Here is a list of what most normal drinks contain (roughly – bearing in mind that some beers and wines can be higher than the norm):

1 x 150 ml glass of wine = 2 unit
1 x 250 ml glass of wine = 3.3 units
1 x shot/shooter = ½ unit in most instances (but see 25ml tot of spirits below)
1 x spirit cooler = about 1.25 units
1 x beer = 1.5 units or possibly more
1 x cider = 2 units
1 x 25 ml tot of spirits = 1 unit
1 x cocktail = Between 2 and 4 units

So this means that if you drink just 2 small glasses of wine or 2 beers within the space of one hour – you are probably over the legal limit to drive.  If you drink just a single cocktail, you can virtually count on it. Your body requires on average 1 hour to process 1 unit of alcohol and nothing – not coffee, cold showers, a swim or drinking lots of water – will make that happen much faster.


What happens if I get caught?
All of the following are possible consequences – criminal record, jail sentence for up to 6 years, fine of up to R120,000, loss of driving licence. And the worst consequence of all – killing or maiming someone, possibly someone you know and love. A life sentence with no reprieve.

What should I do to avoid this?
Some people will tell you that it’s all subject to how much you weigh, how fast your metabolism is, whether you’re male or female, etc et but the point is that you have no proof of how sober you are or not until the blue lights are flashing and you blow into that little tube. Better to book a taxi or a drive-home service, stay overnight or take it in turns with your friends to be the designated driver where one of you sticks to soft drinks and you all enjoy a smug feeling of satisfaction as you sail through any roadblock in safety.

Read more about the 'snowball effect' of drinking and driving here.


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