Cape Town wants to breathalyse boozy pedestrians

The Western Cape government (WCG) may soon subject pedestrians to breathalyser tests as part of strict new laws proposed to curb alcohol abuse in the province.

In a green paper gazetted last week, the WCG called for public participation on the proposed introduction of  legislation ‘to place alcohol-related limits for pedestrians on certain classes of road between certain hours’.

“South Africans drink more alcohol than people from most other countries, and we do so in risky patterns,” the WCG said.

“Pedestrians under the influence of alcohol often exhibit risky behaviour, like crossing streets dangerously, and sustain more severe injuries.”

According to the green paper, the tangible and intangible cost to the South African economy as a result of alcohol abuse is between R245 billion and R280 billion – while estimates put the economic contribution of the alcoholic beverages sector at R73 billion.

“The estimates point to a net cost to the economy of approximately 7-10% of GDP, or R165-236 billion,” the paper said.

Read: Drinking booze in Cape Town could get a lot harder – and more expensive

It said that law enforcement has limited tools to remove pedestrians who are posing a  danger to themselves and others by walking on or near roads while under the influence. In most in stances, officers cannot arrest the person for public drunkenness unless they are visibly intoxicated or commit other offences.

The WCG conceded that while it is not feasible to legislate an offence covering all pedestrians who may have consumed alcohol, consideration should be given to legislating blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) limits for pedestrians on certain classes of roads at certain times.

“The proposal is that consideration be given to the introduction of legislation, for example as municipal by-laws, that make it illegal for pedestrians with a BAC or BrAC over 0.15 BAC to walk on or adjacent to certain higher order roads between designated hours where alcohol-related pedestrian crashes are prevalent or there is significant potential risk, unless pedestrians infrastructure has specifically been provided and the pedestrian is making use of that infrastructure.”

Citing researchers, the WCG said that breathalyser testing of pedestrians was seen as the  only potentially effective policy option to counter alcohol-related pedestrian crashes.

“Legislation would need to empower law enforcement officers to be able to,  at a minimum, obtain passive alcohol screening results from pedestrians suspected of being under the influence.”

Additional proposals (among many others) put forward by the Western Cape government included:

  • Encourage a national ban on alcohol advertising that is visible to anyone under the age of 18, and restrict sports advertising and promotion that links alcohol to success.
  • Advertising, marketing and the promotion of alcohol at all public facilities and events organised by the Western Cape Government should be prohibited.
  • Encourage levies on promotional spending to cover alcohol-related harms counter messaging.
  • Consider the possibility of maximum limits for trading hours or days to reduce consumption.
  • Regulate the amount of outlets in each area based on zoning requirements and population.
  • Encourage the increase of alcohol pricing through excise tax or minimum unit pricing.
  • Enable the rezoning of outlets for liquor sales in appropriate residential areas.

More on alcohol in South Africa

Raising the legal drinking age – and other proposed liquor laws

South Africa alcohol consumption vs the world

Govt pushing ahead with tighter alcohol laws

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Cape Town wants to breathalyse boozy pedestrians