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Know your drinking limits: a guide to safely navigating the festive season

Published Dec 21, 2021

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By Greta Goosen

The holiday season has arrived, bringing with it the customary flurry of festivities as the working year winds down. But between cocktail parties, end-of-year functions and festive feasts, it's all too easy to down one drink too many, and to turn what should be a welcome celebration into an avoidable nightmare.

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While a zero-tolerance policy is believed to be in the works, according to Section 65 of the National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1998, South African law does still legally allow for a blood alcohol level of up to 0.05g per 100ml. However, even a minimal amount of alcohol can impair your ability to concentrate on the road. Given the high traffic volumes typical of the festive season and the high likelihood of having to deal with other inebriated motorists, your ability to stay alert and respond quickly is of the essence.

How much is too much?

Numerous factors, including the amount of food consumed during the day, altitude, body weight, as well as sleep quality and the interplay of alcohol with other medications you might be consuming can affect the blood alcohol concentration levels in your body. So while you might think you're well within the law by treating yourself to a quick drink before heading home, it's important to remember that your body's response is variable, and that you could be putting yourself and others at risk by getting behind the wheel.

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What are the consequences?

Over and above the obvious safety risks that drunken driving entails, that extra drink could also end up being very costly in the event of an accident, even if you aren't the cause thereof. Should you find yourself on the wrong end of a fender bender or a more serious incident, the likelihood of your insurer paying your claim is relatively slim should you be found to be over the legal drinking limit. This would essentially constitute a breach of the law, which could in turn end up invalidating the terms of your cover. As such, given the unpredictable ways in which the body processes alcohol, it's best to err on the side of caution and apply your own zero tolerance policy so as to avoid any unwelcome financial setbacks or injuries.

What are the alternatives?

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This doesn't mean that you need to steer clear of alcohol while all your nearest and dearest get into the festive spirit. In fact, there are plenty of affordable (and in some cases free) services you can make use of to avoid drinking and driving. If you're in a major center, Uber and similar services are available at the click of a button at reasonable rates, but if you're out of town or in a particularly crowded holiday hotspot, you'll need to understand your options and do a little forward planning.

Your best bet would be to check with your bank or insurance provider whether you're entitled to a Drive Assist / Take-me-home service. Many providers offer a limited number of free rides every year, so make sure to take up the offer should it be available to you. However, it's important to bear in mind that these services have become very popular, so you should look to book ahead of time so as to avoid disappointment.

Should you not have this option available to you, make sure to look up local taxi providers ahead of time and arm yourself with the relevant contact numbers which could prove useful should you end up in a situation where you feel uncomfortable getting behind the wheel.

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Wherever your holidays take you this year, make sure to enjoy them responsibly, as that innocuous extra glass of wine could end up costing you a lot more than you bargained for.

Greta Goosen is Head of Customer Experience at MiWay Insurance.

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