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Motor Accident & Safety
Sunday, April 1, 2007
Sobering thought

The consequences of being caught drinking and driving are more than just a lost licence, a fine, or even a jail term. Culprits could also end up with hefty repair bills and liability costs that would not be covered by their insurance.

This is because an insured with a proven blood alcohol level above the legal limit automatically nullifies his policy cover.
As Keith Kennedy, Executive GM, Claims at Mutual & Federal, observes, “From our many years of experience we can say that consumers often pay insufficient regard to exclusion clauses in their policies.
“A key policy exclusion in motor insurance stipulates that driving with a proven alcohol level above the statutory limit invalidates your cover. In effect, if you drink and drive, you are doing so without insurance. This will expose you to a host of undesired consequences.
“The financial impact of a multiple car pile-up caused by a tipsy driver is huge and could potentially run into more than a million rand. Most people would be ruined for life covering the cost of the physical damage to vehicles, even if they did survive the accident.” Recourse could be taken by drivers and their insurers in respect of damaged vehicles, to say nothing of the medical cost implications.
He also warns that the growing incidence of imported vehicles on our roads and increasingly sophisticated automotive design features have significantly increased the cost of vehicle repair. Even a so-called bumper bashing will add significantly to your personal financial woes if you have been drinking and are shown to be above the statutory limit.
“The price of a new windscreen and airbag replacement – aside from the cost of body-work repair – could exceed R50 000 on a luxury imported vehicle,” he points out.
The blood-alcohol limit for drivers is 0,05 gram per 100ml of blood while the limit for professional drivers is 0,02 gram.
“If you are involved in an accident and are over the limit,” says Mr Kennedy, “the insurance repercussions may not be limited solely to your liability for vehicle repair costs.
“Proof of excessive blood-alcohol may be taken as evidence of negligence, providing a basis for a claim by any of your passengers who were injured in the accident. Damages for personal injury can be sizeable too when serious, incapacitating injuries are caused.”
A driver found to be over the legal limit is taken to a police station, booked and placed in a holding cell. The maximum penalty is a fine of R120 000 and/or six years’ imprisonment.
The driver’s licence of a guilty person may also be suspended. It is also possible that the Asset Forfeiture Unit could confiscate the car of a drunk driver.
According to Mr Kennedy, recent statistics show that more than 45% of drivers killed on our roads had blood-alcohol levels above the legal limit. “Death and carnage on our roads make the price of drinking and driving too hard to bear for countless families.
Our advice to drivers is to take no chances. Do not drink at all if you are driving. And if you have to go out, elect a designated driver who undertakes not to drink during the evening.
Another strategy is to use public transport or be collected to attend a party and then call for a taxi at the end of the evening. There are also so-called ‘toot-and-scoot’ services available. Clients can call in a professional driver who arrives on a fold-up motorcycle. He puts it in your boot and drives you home.

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:20.3 1st April, 2007
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