Drunk driving and insurance: If you’re on the road, be off the booze

King Price insurance’s client experience partner, Wynand van Vuuren

Last year, 235 people died on South Africa’s roads over the Easter weekend, with drunk driving, speeding and pedestrian accidents playing a major role in the death rate.

This year is shaping up to be equally chaotic, with tens of thousands of cars expected to hit the main routes to Durban and Limpopo ahead of the coming long weekends.

There is proposed new legislation on the table that will effectively ban all consumption of alcohol on South Africa’s roads. But for now, you’re still allowed to get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking, as long as your blood alcohol content is below 0.05 grams per 100 millilitres, and your breath alcohol concentration is below 0.24g/1,000ml.

The problem is that far too many individuals don’t stop at one or two drinks before getting behind the wheel, with devastating consequences, says King Price insurance’s client experience partner, Wynand van Vuuren.

Drunk driving incidents cost the economy an estimated R18.2 billion annually and account for 27.1% of fatal crashes on local roads, according to research by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), the SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and the University of South Africa (Unisa).

Van Vuuren has called for all drivers to stay off the booze completely if they’re driving.

“The fact that you’re not covered by insurance for incidents where you’re under the influence of alcohol and drugs is the least of your worries. The far greater concern is the devastation you can inflict on entire families and communities by causing injuries to or the death of innocent people while you’re drunk,” said Van Vuuren.

“Even if you don’t hurt anyone with your irresponsible behaviour, you could end up with a criminal record. You’ll undoubtably find it difficult to get insurance again in the future. And that’s on top of the huge bills you’ll face for loss or damage to your own car, along with that of any other vehicles or property. It’s just not worth it.”

If you’re travelling long distances over the next couple of weekends, follow these simple safety tips, says Van Vuuren.

Get your vehicle ready

Check your tyres, top up your fluids and do some general maintenance to make sure your car is ready for a long trip. Poorly maintained cars raise the risks of accidents significantly. 

Avoid distractions

Don’t text and drive. It’s estimated that texting while driving increases your chances of an accident 23 times. If you have to use your phone, wait for a stop. 

Don’t drive tired

Fatigue is a major contributor to accidents on our roads. Get enough sleep the night before. If you find yourself yawning while driving, pull over and take a break, or let someone else drive. 

Drive defensively

Watch out for other drivers and people next to the road. The AA estimates a third of all road fatalities to be pedestrians. Stay focused, and be alert to road conditions and other road users’ and pedestrians’ unpredictable behaviour. 

Make sure your insurance is up to date

Before you leave, check your car insurance cover to ensure that it includes cover for liability. Also, check whether your policy offers roadside, accident and medical assistance in case anything happens along the way. 

“Buckle up. Don’t drink and drive. And stay alert. Don’t let a badly planned road trip ruin your holiday,” says Van Vuuren.

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