Drunk Driving in South Africa - Laws

Drunk driving in South Africa is not to be taken lightly and drinking and driving is a very serious offence. The gravity of drunken driving charges should be enough to frighten anyone away from driving drunk, but there can also be far more grave repercussions that can occur when drivers don’t watch their blood alcohol limit – these can be fatal consequences.

Drive South Africa have joined the IPledge Movement against drunk driving. 

Are you familiar with the South African drunk driving laws? Do you know when you are beyond the limit? Do you understand what charges can be levied against you if your blood alcohol limit is beyond what it should be?

Above: Don't practice drunk driving in South Africa by Konrad Baranski

Detecting drunk driving in South Africa

Blood Alcohol Limits 

The South African Road Traffic Act 93/96 has been in effect since March 1998. Whether you are driving in your home town or on roads foreign to you in a car hire vehicle, these laws are extremely important to obey. These laws are in place to help protect the community and to make sure that drunk drivers are reprimanded. 

• 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
• 1 x cocktail = Between 2 and 4 units

Source: Drunk Driving Laws in South Africa

1 unit is equal to 0.02g blood alcohol

It takes your body approximately 1 hour to process 1 unit of alcohol. Ideally, after drinking any alcohol you should avoid getting into the driver’s seat of your car, but at least this way you can work out how long it takes for the alcohol to leave your system.

According to Dr Charles Parry of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Group under the Medical Research Council (MRC) 40% of drivers who die on the road have alcohol levels in excess of .08 gms / 100 ml.

Local Drunk Driving Laws in South Africa

Any person driving on South African roads should be familiar with the local drunk driving laws in South Africa. Here’s a summary of the laws to make it easier for you:

1. No person on a public road shall -

Occupy a driver's seat of a motor vehicle, the engine of which is running, while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or a drug having a narcotic effect.

2. No person on a public road shall -

Occupy a driver's seat of a motor vehicle, the engine of which is running, while the concentration of alcohol in any specimen of blood taken from his or her body is not less than 0.05 grams per 100 millilitres.

3. The two-hour rule -

According to the National Traffic Act 1996if in any prosecution for a contravention of the provisions of subsection (2), it is proved that the concentration of alcohol in any specimen of blood taken from any part of the body of the person concerned was not less than 0.05 grams per 100 millilitres at any time within two hours after the alleged offence, it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, that such concentration was not less than 0.05 grams per 100 millilitres of blood at the time of the alleged offence.

Implications of Being Caught Drunk Driving in South Africa

Perhaps you’ve been “lucky” up to now and you have not been caught drinking and driving; because you think that you are capable of driving drunk. But what are the implications if you do get caught?

If you’re found guilty of drunk driving in South Africa you could face up to 6 years in jail. You could also be liable for fines of up to R120 000 and your driver’s license may be suspended. You will also have a criminal record which can have serious ramifications for the rest of your life. Of course, the worst case scenario is that you could kill someone else on the road, your loved ones or yourself.

Solution to drunk driving in South Africa

There is some good news for those folks who are out on the town and find they’re unable to drive home. If you're worried about driving your vehicle back to your hotel drunk (which you should be), ask Drive South Africa to book you a car with a supplier partnered with a designated driver service. This means that you won't have to drive your car rental when intoxicated and breach your car hire contract.

Source: Responsible car hire

 Please, don't practise drunk driving in South Africa. Drive responsibly on our roads.

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14 Responses on this page.Add your own

  1. Gravatar seatile Moroke says:

    I have read to understand and I hope this message will reach as many people as we wish it can and to all our brother’s and sister’s who are driving in SA Roads please ask yourself’s if it happens to you how will you handle it. Let us be safe and save the nation.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Gravatar Kgopotso says:

    I have been arrested a few months ago on this charge. spending time in a holding cell was more than enough to make me NEVER to do it again. however I have a court case coming up. what is the worst I can expect. I am a first time offender to the law.

    Reply to this comment
    1. Gravatar mashau hulisani says:

      hellow Kgomotso
      ask for diversion program for the prosecutor. they will give u that since you are a first offender and you will escape criminal liability.

      Reply to this comment
      1. Gravatar merlyn says:

        Hi Mashau
        what is a diversion program

        Reply to this comment
        1. Gravatar Asanda says:

          Hi Merlyn

          Thank you for visiting our site.
          A diversion program in the criminal justice system is a form of sentencing and such programs are often run by a police department, court, a district attorney’s office, or outside agency designed to enable offenders of criminal law to avoid criminal charges and a criminal record.

          Please visit: http://www.westerncape.gov.za/general-publication/what-diversion for more information.

          Kind Regards,

          Reply to this comment
  3. Gravatar Bianca van der Bergh says:

    Hi Kgopotso
    As a first time offender, you will probably be fined or you will receive a suspended jail sentence. Here is a link with more details:
    http://www.justanswer.com/south-africa-law/4dvgs-probable-penalties-dui-south-africa.html We’re really glad that you have decided to never do it again.
    Have a lovely day.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Gravatar diana olivier says:

    I was also arrested for first offence drunk and driving I went to court on the said day and my file was not there went to police station where they arrested me and told me they sent it to wentworth and that I had been reprimanded, how could that be when my name was never called up and never spoken to they didn’t even have my file

    Reply to this comment
  5. Gravatar P Haupt says:

    It is silly to have a law that does not clearly set out the limits of what a person can and cannot do in order to comply. For example, if a person has a whiskey at 5pm, then 3 glasses of wine at 7, how long must the person wait before he or she can drive, in the knowledge that they are law abiding at that point? If a person wants to be compliant, they have to be given clear guidelines on what constitutes a contravention. A blood count is not good enough, because the person has no way of knowing when his or her blood count will be above the level.  For example, how do we even know if we can drive the next day?

    Reply to this comment
  6. Gravatar Kelvin says:

    on 31st january 2014 i have arrested driving 102km on 60km zone. At the seen the traffic cope never mention or suspect drink and drive but the time they were taking me to police station, female officer says she is smelling alcohol. after putting me on temporally sells for about 30min, they decide the should drive with me to the hospital for blood test. on the way to the hospital one of the police officer says he forget to take an important information from my car. they make a U-turn taking about 15min to reach where my car is then proceed to the hospital. what can i do as i have arrested and charge of driving under the influence of liquer whereas I dont drink alcohol. at the police station where my file is , they told me to wait for 4-6 month for blood test to come out. I even go extra mile taking finger print to see my blood results, unfortunatly my blood not yet registered at the foresic lab. what can i do from now?

    Reply to this comment
    1. Gravatar Asanda says:

      Hi Kelvin

      Thank you for your inquiry. We are so sorry to hear about this unfortunate incident but unfortunately we are only a booking agent and we can’t offer any legal advice as we don’t have the expertise.

      We would advise that you seek legal advice from a lawyer. 
      We wish you all the best.

      Best Regards

      Reply to this comment
  7. Gravatar katlego says:

    Hi I just want to know is it against the law to drink soda and drive? I got a R500 fine on the 29/03/14 .

    Reply to this comment
    1. Gravatar Asanda says:

      Hi Katlego

      Thank you for your inquiry. We are so sorry to hear about your incident but unfortunately we can’t give legal advice. We are only a booking agent.

      However, unless you can speak to someone at a traffic department near you & ask or if you have access to traffic law to see where it states you aren’t allowed to drink soda and drive, we would advise you to speak to a lawyer.

      We hope this helps and wish you all the best.


      Reply to this comment
  8. Gravatar manini mosoeu says:


    In 2012 my cousin was arrested for drink and driving with general bodily harm and it was the first offence, the case was dismissed and now in 2014 he got a letter from the police to attend a case .  How is that possible and what charges can he face.




    Reply to this comment
    1. Gravatar Asanda says:

      Hi Manini

      Thank you for visiting our site and sorry to hear about your cousin’s incident. Unfortunately we are merely a booking site. For more information on the grounds under which your cousin is being charged, you would have to contact the police station where the letter comes from. You may also seek legal assistance.

      Hope this helps.

      Warm Regards,

      Reply to this comment

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