What the zero-tolerance drunk driving limit means for your vehicle insurance

The controversial Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (Aarto), which includes a 0% alcohol limit for drivers and a licence demerit point system, is scheduled to be implemented in July 2021, according to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula. 

Zero tolerance 

As part of the government’s hard line around drinking and driving on South African roads, the National Road Traffic Amendment Act effectively introduces a zero tolerance towards the level of alcohol in your blood if you are operating a motor vehicle on the country’s roads. The current legal concentration of alcohol in the blood is 0.05g per 100ml for ordinary drivers and 0.02g per 100ml for professional drivers. The new limit will be 0.00g per 100ml for all drivers. 

Impact on your vehicle insurance 

If you are involved in an accident while driving a vehicle and you are under the influence of alcohol, your insurer has the right to legally refuse to honour your claim. This is already included in most policies, however, there has always been a grey area as to how much alcohol impairs driving ability. With the zero-tolerance limit, even having one drink means you won’t be covered by your policy if you are involved in an accident. 

In addition, you can now be considered a higher risk policyholder and could see increased premiums. If your licence is suspended or revoked, or you are convicted of drunk driving, your policy could also be cancelled. This could make it challenging to secure vehicle insurance in the future.  

Policies shouldn’t change with the new act, as most stipulate that drivers must abide by the law. At the moment that includes a blood alcohol level of 0.05g per 100ml, but this will be reduced to zero when the new law comes into effect. While the intention of the zero-tolerance limit is to make South African roads safer, having fewer accidents and therefore lower claims costs for insurers, could see premiums decrease in the future.

Demerit point system

This proposed system is aimed at punishing repeat offenders. Demerit points are applied to learners’ licences, driving licences, vehicle licence discs, operator cards or road transport permits. Everyone begins with zero demerit points and will have points added for various infringements. Different points are prescribed for different infringements or offences, and they’re added to your driving licence when you pay a fine, an enforcement order is issued or you are found guilty in a court of law. 

Reach 15 points and you face a suspension of your driving licence or operator card. For a learner drive it’s six points before suspension. Exceed the 15 point threshold and for every point that’s over, you receive a three-month suspension. You can only be suspended twice and during this time you may not drive. A licence is cancelled upon a third suspension and you will need to reapply for a learner’s licence and driving licence after waiting for the disqualification period to pass. Demerit points are reduced at a rate of one point every three months until you are once again at zero points. 

Driving under the influence of any alcohol or intoxicating substances will be a criminal offence and if found guilty, you will receive the highest penalty of six demerit points and will receive a summons to appear in court. 

The responsibility sits with you, the driver, that if you drink alcohol you organise a sober driver, alternative transport or e-hailing services in order to get home. While jail and a criminal record are possibilities once the zero-tolerance limit is introduced, you could also have your claim rejected, your premiums could increase or your policy could be cancelled. 

To find out more about vehicle insurance, chat to an advisor on or visit the website: 

Indwe is an authorised Financial Services Provider. FSP: 3425