With the country having moved to level three of lockdown as of 1 June and eased regulations coming into effect, there is a visible increase in the number of road users which has made the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill of 2019 is more important than ever before. The bill which was submitted by Government to Parliament at the beginning of this year, is poised to completely prohibit the consumption of alcohol if driving. The move is both necessary and welcomed by The South African Breweries.
"As a mother of three, the safety of my family on the road is always a major concern. I am 100% in support of Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula's commitment to implement a BAC 0% zero-tolerance policy by June 2020, and so is SAB as one of the largest players in the alcohol industry," said Zoleka Lisa, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at SAB.
In a partnership developed with Department of Transport and the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), SAB's Alcohol Evidence Centres (AECs) have been central to the implementation of the proposed BAC 0% bill and sets to reinforce the sentiment that individuals should not even have a single drink if they intend getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. "The AECs are SAB's best effort to help equip law enforcement with the tools and support they need to effectively curb road accidents," said Lisa.
AECs ensure that law enforcement is able to not only test suspected drunk drivers and confirm their breath or blood alcohol limit using Evidentiary Breathalyser Alcohol Testing (EBAT) and blood tests using registered medical practitioners, but also ensure that the evidence collected during these processes are admissible in court.
At the beginning of 2019, SAB matched its verbal commitment to reducing road fatalities by contributing on average R10 million to maintaining and upgrading AECs across the country over a three-year period.
Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has become a reality across the country, the use of breathalysers and blood tests in the fight against drunk driving is in question. Prior to the lockdown the South African Police Services had already suspended the use of breathalysers during alcohol roadblocks. SAB has already is in talks with its partners to ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic does not create a gap in the system that puts lives at risk.
"Due to the nature of viral transmission, the use of breathalysers and blood tests has been put into question and more stringent regulations will be put in place. As our partners at the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), and local authorities update procedures surrounding BAC testing in line with developing Department of Health regulations, we will continue to work with them to ensure our AECs remain operational and effective during these unprecedented times," said Lisa.
As a testament to AEC effectiveness, SAB launched the Pietermaritzburg AEC in April last year, and subsequently witnessed a 44% reduction in road fatalities in the area by November. In the five months between March and July last year, there were also more than 420 arrests in the area related to drinking and driving. More importantly, there were 70 successful prosecutions.
"SAB is fully committed to curbing the threat of drunk drivers on the road and does not want AEC momentum to fade, even with COVID-19 on the rise across the country. Working with our partners is going to be key to this as new developments continue to arise. The suspension of breathalysers should never be a reason to drink and drive. We will keep up the pressure, and do it within the boundaries of the law," said Lisa.