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South Africa announces stricter driving regulations

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has declared that stringent new laws regarding drunk driving and a demerit points system will be implemented in South Africa in July 2021. Mbalula stated at a press conference that the National Road Traffic Amendment Act will effectively prohibit the use and consumption of alcohol by all motor vehicle drivers on South African public roads.

The concentration of alcohol in any blood sample must be 0.00 grams per 100 millilitres under the new guidelines. “When you drive your car and get in your vehicle you will need to be 100% sober,” he said. This zero-tolerance to alcohol is already in place in many cities, but not every province had similar regulations until now.

Currently, the National Road Traffic Act allows persons who have drunk alcohol to drive if their blood alcohol level is less than the legal limit (up to 0.05 gram per 100 millilitres and less than 0.02 gram per 100 millilitres for a professional driver). Mbalula also announced that the new driving demerit system will be implemented by the government in July. This is intended to penalise repeat offenders, he explained.

How the driving demerit system works

South Africa announces stricter driving regulations

The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act establishes a system in which a person, operator, or company receives the penalty and accumulates points when a traffic infraction occurs. Operators and owners of motor vehicles are assigned demerit points. A car that has been suspended due to the points system may not be sold or operated on a public road.

If a driver sells, scraps or exports a vehicle, the existing demerit points will remain on the driver’s record and will be applied to the next vehicle purchased by the organisation. Essentially, the system does not penalise automobiles; only the driver (or license holder) is held accountable.

“This is the year in which we are tightening the screws on offenders and those on the other side of the law. This is the year in which we will see this in action,” explains Minister Mbalula. The minister acknowledges that the system has critics, but states that President Cyril Ramaphosa has already signed the Act into law. 

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Written by Kate Hawthorne

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