Worst drunk drivers in the world …

Worst drunk drivers in the world …

Alarmingly, South Africa has more drunk-driving related deaths than anywhere else in the world. As much as 58 percent of deaths are alcohol related, according to the latest Global Status Report on Road Safety for 2015, released by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Dawie Buys, manager of insurance risks at the South African Insurance Association (SAIA), warns South Africans to take heed of this shocking statistic – especially during the festive season (when drunk-driving fatalities historically spike). Motorists should never get behind the wheel or drive with anyone who exceeds the alcohol limit of 0,05 g per 100 ml.

“It must be top of mind for all motorists that drinking and driving is simply not an option, as motorists literally hold their lives and the lives of other road users in their hands.”

According to the report, a person has a 26,6 percent chance of dying in a road accident in Africa, with the next most dangerous region being the Eastern Mediterranean (where one has a 19,9 percent chance of being killed on the road).

“South Africa remains one of the more dangerous countries for road safety, with 25,1 deaths per 100 000 population,” Buys says. “The report noted, however, that there has been a steady improvement in danger levels since a peak of 33 deaths per 100 000 people, recorded in 2006.”

It is generally accepted that 80 to 90 percent of road crashes can be attributed to driver behaviour – which includes the honest mistake or error in judgement, but also driver recklessness and driver inattention. Apart from alcohol abuse, the major causes for fatal road accidents are speeding, not wearing seatbelts, no child restraints and no helmets for motorcyclists.

Buys adds that the report estimates that 7,8 percent of South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) is lost due to crashes on the country’s roads. “The insurance industry currently insures around R46 billion worth of cars, with 70 percent of motor claims being accident-related.

“In the majority of all accidents, alcohol plays a role. Despite motorists having extensive motor insurance cover, if they drink and drive they will not be able to claim for damages and will be held liable for their own financial loss, as well as that of the person or vehicle affected.”

He advises that drunk-driving prevention in South Africa must be a shared responsibility between motorists and law enforcement. “The Global Status Report of the WHO states that, while South Africa has national laws to combat drunk driving, the country scored a low four out of ten in its capacity to enforce them. Speed limit enforcement scored three out of ten, and seat-belt laws scored even worse in terms of enforcement: two out of ten. Real action from our law enforcers is necessary. If the drunk driving law is properly enforced, as has been done in the United Kingdom, United States and Australia, we will see results.”

According to Buys, the Department of Transport (DoT), through the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), is taking steps to curb motorists’ bad driving behaviour and is in the process of finalising the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act to reduce the carnage on roads.

“AARTO is currently in operation on a pilot basis in Johannesburg. Tshwane and Ekurhuleni Metro Councils, as well as the DoT and RTIA, are hoping to introduce the Act nationally in the second quarter of 2016.

“SAIA welcomes and supports the AARTO initiative. Its aim is to adjust motorists’ attitude towards the rules of the road and curb road accidents. This will include penalising drivers and operators who are guilty of infringements or offences through the imposition of demerit points, leading to the suspension and cancellation of driving licences, professional driving permits or operator cards; as well as rewarding law-abiding behaviour by reducing demerit points if infringements or offences are not committed over a specific period.”

He stresses, however, that such initiatives are only possible with zero bribery and corruption from both motorists and law enforcement officers. He calls for stricter law enforcement on drunk driving to ensure road safety.

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