Festive season driving

Blood alcohol

Don’t drink and drive!

It’s December. Thank goodness for that. Everyone is tired. This year, unlike the past two years, we are free from Covid-19-related restrictions such as lockdowns, beach closures, curfews, and alcohol bans. Life has more or less returned to normal. Let’s not allow that to mean a return to high rates of death on our roads. Alcohol is a major factor in road traffic accidents and fatalities. Alcohol also plays a big part in pedestrian deaths on the road. Historically, pedestrians killed on the road who were tested for alcohol were found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) considerably over the legal limit for driving. They weren’t breaking any laws; but they sadly endangered their own lives. And imagine the trauma caused to the driver who hit them (who may have been entirely law-abiding behind the wheel when the drunk pedestrian staggered into their path). The majority of pedestrians who die after drinking alcohol are young males (age 20-29). Don’t drink and drive, and don’t drink and walk – at least not on the road. Get a sober friend or use a taxi to take you home.


Roadblocks are intimidating for most drivers at any time of year. In December, you are more likely to encounter one. Because social events and alcohol consumption both increase in December, the Provincial Traffic Services are committed to cracking down on drinking and driving and enforcing alcohol-related laws. During the week of 21-27 November, in the Western Cape there were 225 integrated roadblock, vehicle check point and speed control operations. 28,910 vehicles were stopped and checked. Note – that’s in one week. We don’t have figures for how many vehicles were on the roads and so we can’t say what proportion of the total that number represents, but it is fair warning that law enforcement is doing its job. Don’t find yourself on the wrong side of the law.

We say it every year, and we will repeat it this year: don’t drink and drive. That will (hopefully) ensure you aren’t arrested. But it won’t prevent you being stopped for a check. If you are pulled over in a roadblock, what will happen and what should you do?

Your legal rights

If you’re stopped at a roadblock under suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), you will be breathalysed. In a traditional roadblock, if you’re over the legal limit you will be taken into custody and sent for a blood alcohol test. If the roadblock is a mobile alcohol evidentiary unit, your blood will be tested immediately. If you are innocent you will be released and no further action will be taken. If you are over the limit, you are more likely to be charged, as you will not need to be transferred to a testing centre. You will be allowed to phone a lawyer. If you’re detained, you have the right to consult your lawyer or apply for legal aid if you can’t afford a lawyer. The police must inform you of this right. You may be released on bail or you may be detained until your court appearance.

What to do if arrested

It is easy to say, “stay calm and be polite”. But if you’ve had too much to drink, you may not be your most rational self. However, it is very important to try to keep your cool and resist the temptation to argue. It won’t help your case. The best course of action is to say nothing. You must give your name, address and ID number, but you do not have to answer any questions. You should definitely not contradict the officer or make jokes. And don’t volunteer information about how much (or how little) you have had to drink. Without an attorney present, you risk incriminating yourself. Drill this advice into your head while sober, so that hopefully your will to survive will pull you through when you need it. 

Most importantly, you will be allowed to make a phone call. Use it wisely. Call a criminal defence attorney. If you don’t have SD Law’s number in your phone, call your spouse or friend you can trust and ask them to call us. Don’t waste your phone call on someone who is not in a position to take action.

No shortage of blood testing kits

You may have heard there is a shortage of blood testing kits this year. If you think this will enable drivers to get away with driving under the influence, think again. According to the Western Cape Minister of Mobility, Daylin Mitchell, the Western Cape has sufficient blood testing kits to ensure any drivers found over the legal breath alcohol limit can undergo a BAC test. The Minister is wholly committed to a zero tolerance policy on drunk driving.

Road Traffic Amendment Bill

The Road Traffic Amendment Bill was originally tabled in Parliament in May 2020. The National Assembly recently approved the Bill and sent it to the National Council of Provinces for its approval. This means the Bill has not been enacted yet. Therefore the legal limit for blood alcohol is still 0.5% (0.05g/100ml, for non-professional drivers). The breath alcohol concentration limit is currently 0.24g/1,000ml. However, the Bill introduces a zero limit. There has been so much publicity around zero tolerance that not everyone – including the police – is aware that the Bill has not yet become law. If you are arrested for DUI and are under the legal limit, but above zero, you have a solid case. However, you will still undergo the inconvenience and humiliation of being charged. 

Call a taxi!

Why chance it? If you’re socialising and there is likely to be alcohol, leave the car at home. Get a lift, take the bus, or use a ride-hailing or taxi service. Yes, surge pricing might apply. You might have to wait a bit longer than usual for a driver. But both the cost and the time involved pale in comparison to the fines involved in DUI and a night in a jail cell (which could turn into a weekend if you are arrested on a Friday night).

If the worst happens…

Cape Town attorneys SD Law & Associates are experts in DUI. But we strongly advise you not to drink and drive, not only to avoid the legal consequences but for your own safety and that of other road user. If you are arrested for drinking and driving, contact criminal defence lawyer Simon Dippenaar on 076 116 0623. Save the number in your phone.

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The information on this website is provided to assist the reader with a general understanding of the law. While we believe the information to be factually accurate, and have taken care in our preparation of these pages, these articles cannot and do not take individual circumstances into account and are not a substitute for personal legal advice. If you have a legal matter that concerns you, please consult a qualified attorney. Simon Dippenaar & Associates takes no responsibility for any action you may take as a result of reading the information contained herein (or the consequences thereof), in the absence of professional legal advice.

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