• Ruan Vd Merwe

How about one for the road? Drinking and Driving, don't do it!

How about one for the road? It is an age-old question and no one wants a straight answer. #loopdop

We have all been at that function where you promise yourself that you are only going to have “one beer”, one beer becomes two and before you know it you are closing the doors of your local pub. This often ends in you impulsively and recklessly getting behind the wheel in an attempt to get back home.


The Automobile Association (AA) reports that the rule of drinking and driving is simple: “Don’t do it”.

“It is a proven fact that your driving is impaired after even one unit of alcohol, so it is safer to not drink at all when you know you will be driving. Drive under the influence is a criminal offence and it only takes one point over the limit to deal your fate – which could mean up to six years in prison,” says the AA.

Section 65 of the National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 (the “NRA”’) sets out the legal limits and prohibitions for driving whilst under the influence. It provides that no one shall drive or even occupy the driver’s seat of a motor vehicle (with the engine running) on a public road if their blood alcohol content is over the legal limit.

Your blood may not have an alcohol content of more than 0.05%. This means that even after what you may think is a "small drink", you could be over the limit. If you have more than 350ml of beer, OR if you have more than a single tot of brandy or other spirit, you may already be over the limit. Remember that these levels of alcohol will remain in your system for up to EIGHT hours after consumption!

In essence: The legal blood alcohol limit in South Africa is less than 0.05 g per 100 ml The legal breath alcohol limit in South Africa is less than 0.24 mg in 1000 ml of breath

In simple terms, this means that 2 drinks over the space of 1 hour will put you over the limit.

Below is a breakdown of alcohol units per drink type:

1 x 75 ml glass of wine = 1 unit 1 x 250 ml glass of wine = 3.3 units 1 x shot/shooter = ½ unit in most instances 1 x spirit cooler = about 1.25 units 1 x beer = 1.5 units or possibly more 1 x cider = 2 units 1 x 25 ml tot of spirits = 1 unit

Do not take chances - rather stay where you are until you have sobered up, or arrange for alternative transport home from wherever you plan to drink, and make such plans in advance to ensure that you are not left stranded.



If you are suspected of drinking and driving, you will be breathalysed. If you are over the legal limit, you will be arrested and charged with contravening section 65(5) of the NRA. If the breathalyser tests positive (and you are found to be over the legal limit), the police official is entitled, under Section 40(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 (the “CPA”) to formally arrest and charge the accused. It is crucial that you do not resist arrest or speak to the arresting officer in a disrespectful manner, this part will determine how you will be treated whilst you are detained. When arrested, you still have the right to be treated with respect, and the right to know who the medical practitioner is.

Once arrested, authorities are then allowed to detain you for further evaluation and according to, you shall “as soon as possible”, be taken into custody at the closest police station and sent for further testing at an alcohol testing centre. While you cannot refuse that a blood sample is taken, you can request that your medical practitioner be present.

In accordance with the rights of an arrested, accused or detained person under our Bill of Rights, the accused can demand to be shown that a sealed syringe and needle is used during the taking of the blood.

There is a misconception that that your blood MUST be draw within 2 hours after being arrested. The two-hour time period was meant to have been used as a guideline, but was written into the NRTA as a Law. Blood should therefore at present be drawn within two hours. HOWEVER even if the two-hour period has lapsed, an officer may still insist that a blood specimen should be drawn. It can still be used in court. In such a case the statement must prove that the accused was under the influence of alcohol or another substance.

According to Section 50(1)(d) of the CPA, you will have to appear within 48 hours of being arrested. This time period may be extended on weekends or public holidays as the courts are not open.

This could mean spending 48 to 72 hours in a holding cell, especially when arrested on a Friday. You will only appear in court the following week.

In detention you may be searched. You may however not be searched without your consent and a person of the same sex should conduct the search.


Yes. If found guilty, you could face up to six years behind bars. In addition, your driver’s license may be suspended. You could be held liable for fines of up to R120 000.


Yes, ONLY if convicted of the offence you are charged with or if you pleaded guilty in court, will it result in a criminal record. A criminal record for drunk driving can stay with you for up to 10 years and can seriously hinder your employability and your status in the eyes of employers. It is the onus of the State to prove that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. This means that if your attorney/advocate can show doubt as to the evidence presented to the court by the State, then this may indicate to the court the accused is not guilty.


· Explaining your absence from work because of the Court appearances;

· The loss of time for a self-employed person;

· Explaining your criminal record or need for time off to a potential employer;

· The risk to any professional status, in the context of being "fit and proper", and the associated economic impact;

· Where a vehicle or property is damaged having to deal with the insurance claim, any risk to insurance coverage, the associated economic issues and a potential civil case (read the fine print of your insurance policies in this regard);

· The risk connected to your studies as a student, applying for travel visas and other formal applications which enquire into your legal or health history;

· The trauma of dealing with any physical injury suffered by the accused or third parties;

· If the arrest is made in a town other than where you live, having the time and money to attend proceedings in that town's Court (for instance if you were on holiday);

· The legal costs should you decide to be represented by a private lawyer as opposed to a Legal Aid lawyer if you qualify for Legal Aid.

· You may lose your driver’s licence, or have it suspended.


It is always worth your while to obtain an experienced Attorney to assist with your drunk driving offense, even if it’s your first offense. An experienced lawyer, that specializes in drunk driving matters will know which loopholes to look out for and what procedures needed to be complied with during your arrest and processing. Discovery of any failures by the police to comply with requirements by law will result in the case being dismissed or thrown out.

You will be allowed to contact a family member or attorney from you cell phone once arrested. Make sure that either you or a family member has the phone number of an experienced DUI Attorney on your phone.

You can contact our RUAN VAN DER MERWE at 079 502 7091 at any time when arrested for a DUI.

Should you not have the means to appoint an attorney of choice, you may ask to have a legal practitioner assigned by the state at the state’s expense when you appear in court.


Despite efficient and convenient transport alternatives such as Uber, drinking and driving is still a major problem in our country while it contributes to a large percentage of our road accident and death toll rate. Harsher penalties for driving under the influence are there to help curb the amount of drunk road users, yet every Monday we see plenty of news reports about accidents and fatalities that occurred over the weekend due to drunk driving.

It’s time to wake up to the fact that drinking and driving is extremely reckless, and to think not only about yourself but also the others on the road. Share an Uber together, plan your night better so that no one needs to drive, or get a designated driver. There are so many alternatives out there and they’re cheaper than bail and potentially lifesaving.

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