/ 11 January 2007

Drunken driving commonplace on SA roads

During December, when South Africans seem determined to be merry or drown their sorrows with the help of alcohol, more than 1 000 intoxicated drivers were arrested throughout the country.

In Johannesburg, 198 people were stopped for drinking and driving during the holiday month. Three hundred were caught from July to December.

In KwaZulu-Natal, 673 people were caught for drunken driving from December 1 to January 10, mainly in Pietermaritzburg and Durban. This is 20% more people than last year.

”What is of considerable concern is the degree to which people are drunk,” Beeld quoted KwaZulu-Natal road traffic inspectorate chief John Schnell on Thursday.

But KwaZulu-Natal traffic spokesperson Colin Govender attributes the higher number of arrests to the availability of additional traffic workers and help from the South African Police Service. ”We planned and targeted areas … we had enough officers to stop more bodies,” he told the Mail & Guardian Online on Thursday.

Beeld reported that of the 157 road deaths in KwaZulu-Natal during the holiday period, 87% were pedestrians who were under the influence of alcohol, according to Kwazi Mbanjwa, head of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial department of transport.

The Western Cape’s metro police caught 352 drunk drivers in the same period.

The Ekurhuleni and Tshwane metro police services were unavailable at the time of publishing.

More than 14 000 people are killed on South African roads every year. About half of these fatal accidents involve alcohol, according to South Africans against Drunk Driving.

The cost of traffic collisions in South Africa is approximately R40-billion per year.