The Road Traffic Amendment Bill is currently being considered by parliament and must still be subjected to necessary parliamentary processes – including public consultations – before being signed into law.
Among other changes, the bill proposes a zero-tolerance rule on drunk driving in South Africa. This means that no person will be able to drive a vehicle, or occupy the driver’s seat while the engine is running, with any concentration of alcohol in their system.
Department of Transport spokesperson Ayanda-Allie Paine said that the department hopes the bill will be ready by the holiday season in December 2020, but that it had no control over the parliamentary process or any deadlines.
She added that the bill was not ‘new’ and was formulated prior to the country’s coronavirus lockdown and the restrictions on the sale of alcohol.
“It was already in inception in 2013 and was in progress by the time Minister (Fikile) Mbalula came into office last year,” she said.
“The minister just stated that he would have liked the process concluded sooner rather than later, possibly to curb December fatalities as well. The process is now in parliament’s proverbial hands.”
Mbalula has previously raised concerns about the impact of alcohol on the country’s road fatalities which are some of the highest in the world.
Citing data from the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) and other organisations in August, he said that driver alcohol intoxication accounts for 27.1% of fatal crashes in the country. This is estimated to cost the economy R18.2 billion annually, he said.
The National Road Traffic Act (NRA) currently enables those who have consumed alcohol to get behind the wheel provided they are under the blood alcohol limit.
These laws differentiate between normal drivers and professional drivers (those drivers who hold professional driving permits).
For normal drivers, the concentration of alcohol in any blood specimen must be less than 0.05 gram per 100 millilitres, and in the case of a professional driver, less than 0.02 gram per 100 millilitres.
Mbalula announced that he would introduce a 0% legal blood-alcohol limit in February 2020. This restriction is set to work alongside the new Aarto Act which will introduce South Africa long-awaited demerit system which could see drivers lose their licenses if they accumulate enough traffic fines.