“It is going to be zero! no alcohol in the blood. Zero! No more a glass for the road”. This was the statement made by Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula on 23 January 2020 on the release of the statistics for the 2019-2020 festive season Arrive Alive Road-Safety Campaign.
Mbalula was referring to how the new law, the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (“AARTO”), that he hopes to come into effect by July 2020, will have a zero tolerance stand on the consumption of any amount of alcohol by drivers. The Minister made it clear that drivers will not be allowed to have even one drink before driving.
The purpose of AARTO is:

  • to encourage compliance with the national and provincial laws relating to road traffic and to promote road traffic safety;
  • to encourage the payment of penalties imposed for infringements and to allow alleged minor infringers to make representations;
  • to establish a procedure for the effective and expeditious adjudication of infringements;
  • to alleviate the burden on the courts of trying offenders for infringements;
  • to penalise 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;
  • to reward law-abiding behaviour by reducing demerit points imposed if infringements or offences are not committed over specified periods;
  • to establish an agency to support the law enforcement and judicial authorities and to undertake the administrative adjudication process; and
  • to strengthen co-operation between the prosecuting and law enforcement authorities by establishing a board to govern the agency.

Thus, AARTO introduces a new traffic demerit system which penalises motorists who violate traffic laws.
How will this new demerit system affect South African Drivers?

  • All motorists will start with zero points.
  • Points (between 1 to 6) are allocated according to the severity of road infringements or offences committed.
  • Demerits are assigned to both drivers and cars when a penalty fine for a traffic infringement is paid or when the person is convicted of an offence in court.
  • When 12 points are exceeded, the driver’s licence will be suspended for a period calculated in months, equal to the number of points exceeding 12, multiplied by 3 (the Minister of Transport may also prescribe a specific number).
  • A driver may apply for the return of their licence once the suspension period lapses.
  • A driver who is disqualified for the third time will lose their licence and will have to reapply for a learner’s licence and redo their drivers testing after the suspension period lapses.
  • Should a driver fail to pay fines, they could be blocked from obtaining driving and vehicle licences.

Minister of Transport’s 0% alcohol tolerance
At this stage, a driver will incur 6 demerit points when he or she is caught operating a vehicle whilst the concentration of alcohol in any specimen of blood taken from any part of their body exceeds 0,05 grams per 100 ml’s.
A driver will incur 6 demerit points when they are caught operating a vehicle while the concentration of alcohol in any specimen of breath exhaled by him or her exceeds 0,24 mg’s of alcohol per 1000 ml’s.
According to Women on Wheels (https://www.womenonwheels.co.za/safety/drinking-driving-exactly-limit/), the rule of thumb is a maximum of one unit of alcohol per hour, which constitutes 10 ml’s of pure alcohol, based on an adult weighing 68 kg’s. Our bodies can process only one unit of alcohol each hour. However, it is important to be aware that if you weigh less than 68 kg’s your body will need more time to process the same amount of alcohol.
What is one unit of alcohol?
One unit of alcohol equals:

  • two thirds of a beer or spirit cooler with 5% alcohol content;
  • 75 ml’s of red or white wine per hour with an alcohol content of 12% to 14%; or
  • one 25 ml tot of alcohol per hour for whisky and brandy.

The Minister’s statements will not be taken lightly. Something definitely needs to be done to minimise the carnage on South Africa’s roads despite some seeing these changes as extreme. However, we can all agree that if the Minister gets his way, Catholics returning from church will find themselves in a peculiar position if they are stopped at a roadblock!
Full speech available here: (https://www.pscp.tv/w/1zqKVEdoaBdxB?t=3)
Author: Mikhael Cain