By Catherine Sasman
A ‘drink drive’ survey conducted in Windhoek during a five-week period over the festive season in Windhoek – between December 11, 2007 and January 11, 2008 – found that higher alcohol levels were found between the age group of 27 to 43 in both males and females, with more males exceeding the legal limit of 0.08 grams per 100 milliliters.
From the 210 hours of random sampling of 3 814 drivers around the clock, it was found that 50 were above the legal limit of alcohol consumption, with half the drivers with detectable breath alcohol concentration denying that they had consumed alcohol at the time of the survey.
The survey also revealed that it was not clear whether the drivers understood the relationship between alcohol limits and alcohol consumption.
While it has been suggested that drinking and driving in Namibia has increased by 200 percent over the past decade, crash evidence to prove this is not readily available.
Interestingly though, is that the survey found that the proportion of drivers over the drink drive limit are not dissimilar to those numbers in the United Kingdom, where the proportion of fatally injured drivers with excess alcohol was around 20 percent.
More drivers under the influence – be it the legal limit or over – were found on the roads during the early hours and during the middle of the day, which coincides with high pedestrian movements that put vulnerable road users at greater risk.
Riaan van Rensburg of the Global Road Safety Partnership in Namibia (GRSP Namibia) said there is an urgent need to educate drivers on the legal drink-driving limits and the effects of alcohol on motor skills.
“Two standard drinks will put a driver at risk of being over the Namibian drink drive limit,” said Van Rooyen.
It was found that drivers of public passenger transport used by the majority of citizens were found to be among those under the influence of alcohol.
Also worrying was that a high percentage of young drivers – between the ages of 17 and 24 – were found to be involved in car crashes, not only alcohol-related accidents, but combined with other factors such as speed, night time driving and carrying passengers.
And crashes involving motorcyclists in Windhoek are on the increase, where in some cases traces of alcohol have been found.
Deputy Chief of the Windhoek City Police, Eliphas !Owos-Oab, suggested a revision of the current drink-drive limits, lowering the threshold to 0.05 gram per 100 milliliters, and a further lowering of the threshold for a specific groups of drivers.
He said drivers of commercial vehicles and public transport operators should be subjected to a 0.02 limit, while a zero limit for motorcyclists and young drivers should be considered.
“The policing policy and particularly the legislation should consider introducing random breath testing, as well as mandatory post-crash breath-testing,” !Owos-Oab said.
The mandatory post-crash breath testing is currently only done in Windhoek.
Deputy Minister of Works and Transport, Paul Smit, said responsible alcohol use should be encouraged.
“Irresponsible drinking should be seen as anti-social behaviour and that should apply to the pedestrian as well as the driver. Drunken pedestrians can put sober drivers at risk,” Smit said.
GRSP Namibia said it might be necessary to conduct a wider study of drink driving in rural areas, as well as a study of pedestrian alcohol related crashes.
More importantly, it said, is an educational programme on alcohol impairment levels.
It further suggested that breath testing should be done as a matter of course when drivers are apprehended for traffic offences, and that drink drivers should also be targeted during the daytime.