Taking the risk of drinking and driving is simply not worth it

A study found that consumers were not able to discriminate between alcohol-free and alcohol-containing beer, or between regular-strength and lower-strength beer.
A study found that consumers were not able to discriminate between alcohol-free and alcohol-containing beer, or between regular-strength and lower-strength beer.
Image: GALLO IMAGES/AFP/PAUL ZINKEN

Now that lockdown alert level 2 is here, many cannot wait to get reacquainted with their favourite restaurant or bar, or to try out a new hangout spot.

Restaurants and bars are now allowed to serve alcohol to sit-down customers until 10pm. But before we all get into party mode, here are two thoughts to ponder. Let us learn to refrain from drinking and driving altogether. Secondly, why not try a beer with reduced alcohol content, or better still, an alcohol-free one?

A study conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) of Canada, published in the Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology Journal, has found sufficient evidence that reducing the ethanol content in alcoholic beverages has public health benefits.

The study found that consumers were not able to discriminate between alcohol-free and alcohol-containing beer, or between regular-strength and lower-strength beer.

The reduction in alcoholic strength falls in line with the strategy of the World Health Organisation to reduce the harmful effects of alcohol.

If consumers chose to consume brands with a low alcohol content or even alcohol-free offerings, they will still get that same great taste. In fact, switching to alcohol-free beer would be ideal for designated drivers.

In the quest for our products to be enjoyed responsibly, of particular importance to us is the issue of drunk driving. As SAB, we insist that you do not get behind the wheel after enjoying our products under any circumstance. Drinking and driving is a reality that we cannot ignore, and one that each of us has to take personal responsibility to avoid.

As a business, we are 100% behind zero tolerance. We therefore stand fully  behind transport minister Fikile Mbalula’s bill that champions a zero tolerance approach to drinking and driving. 

The Road Traffic Amendment Bill rightly introduces a 0% breath alcohol content (BAC) limit instead of the current 0.05g per 100ml of blood. As a partner involved in campaigns to encourage the enforcement of responsible drinking, we welcome this move. 

The irresponsible decision of certain individuals to get behind the wheel after drinking is resulting in the unnecessary and untimely death of our fellow citizens. 

This reckless behaviour has to stop. 

We are living in the 21st century, and we have access to other modes of transport that do not require putting our lives, and the lives of innocent parties, at risk. 

The International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD) published a trend report on drunk driving in October 2019. Data from across four continents was analysed, and it was found that deaths caused by drunk driving had declined between 2006 and 2016 in 34 of the 36 countries that were examined. 

The report linked the decline in drunk driving to large numbers of BAC law proposals and changes that have resulted in stiffer punishment for those who are irresponsible enough to drive after consuming alcohol.  

A number of countries have proposed or approved BAC limit regulations in recent years. Belgium has reduced its BAC limit from 0.5 to 0.2mg/ml. The European Transport Safety Council is campaigning for a zero limit and reports are that the European Parliament might approve this. Mexico has set a 0.8mg/ml limit nationwide, while Canada has lowered its BAC limit from 0.8 to 0.5mg/ml.

Countries are also introducing stricter penalties for drinking and driving. Offenders in Australia face driving bans, and mandatory fitment of interlock devices. Brazil has introduced jail sentences of between five and eight years for those who cause deaths while driving drunk, while Singapore has a four-tier penalty system which includes heavy fines and jail sentences for drinking and driving. 

As a mother of three, the safety of my family on the road is always a concern.

As our country gradually adjusts our response to the Covid-19 pandemic, industry activity and human movement will rapidly increase. With this in consideration, it is important that the laws pertaining to drinking and driving are adhered to. 

South African Breweries has partnered with the department of transport and the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) in developing the SAB Alcohol Evidence Centres (AECs). These AECs have been developed as an effort to help equip law enforcement officers with the tools and support they need to effectively curb road accidents. The AECs will be instrumental in the implementation of the new regulations that serve to eradicate drinking and driving.

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), it also ensures that the evidence collected during these processes is admissible in court.

At the beginning of 2019, SAB committed to maintaining and upgrading AECs across the country over a three-year period to reduce road fatalities and encourage responsible behaviour. 

As our partners at the RTMC 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. We remain so committed to this because we have evidence that proves the effectiveness of AECs. When SAB launched an AEC in Pietermaritzburg in April 2019, we witnessed a 44% decrease in road fatalities in that area by November of the same year. 

In the five months between March and July 2019, there were also more than 420 arrests in the area related to drinking and driving. More importantly, there were 70 successful prosecutions. This shows why it is so important to keep the AECs operational at all times. 

SAB is fully committed to curbing the threat of drunk drivers on the road. We are committed to keeping up the pressure and doing it within the boundaries of the law to ensure that taking the risk of driving after drinking is simply not worth it

Let us change our behaviour, SA, and stop endangering our lives, and the lives of our fellow citizens. 

Zoleka Lisa, VP: Corporate Affairs, South African Breweries

 

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