Drinking and driving is a scourge that we would be very happy to see totally eradicated from our roads in Swaziland. It is estimated that as much as 50% of all road accidents are caused by abuse of alcohol, so its really a no-brainer that a major change in attitudes is required… and some committed policing.
The campaign to highlight drink driving (DD) and its impacts in Swaziland has been largely driven by the Times of Swaziland newspaper. For the past four years reporters from the Times have religiously attended court appearances for drink-driving suspects and have reported on the cases. A minimum of a full page in the paper on Monday or Tuesday morning is typically dedicated to DD cases. This has resulted in increased motivation from the police to enforce drink-driving legislation, and cognisance by magistrates that their every word in sentencing is going to be aired. However, judging by the weekly reports, more pressure needs to be mounted, as the statistics remain stubbornly at approximately 30-40 offenders every week. Sometimes as many as 60 offenders charged over one weekend. Most are local drivers, but there is a regular appearance of visitors to the Kingdom on the lists.
The legal limit for blood alcohol concentration(BAC) when driving in Swaziland is 0.05% or 0.38mg/l in a breath specimen. For Public Transport drivers in Swaziland the upper limit is 0.10mg/l for a breath specimen.
Comments Swazi Trails Managing Director, Darron Raw, :
General attitudes about drink driving in Swaziland have certainly lagged international best practise for many years, but the trend has changed in the last 3-4 years. Now it is not uncommon to hear people talk about being a ‘designated driver’ or hiring a professional driver to get them home from parties. Whilst it’s still likely to be some time before the moral justifications for condemning DD are properly entrenched, the bottom line is that folk are cognisant of the reputational damage they are likely to suffer if they appear in a newspaper article.
What you can do as a tourist?
The first thing to do is to respect our local laws. We may be a relaxed and happy-go-lucky nation, but drink driving is really not tolerated. The consumption of alcohol is closely associated with leisure activities and being on holiday, and most tourism establishments have licensed liquor facilities. However, one should not get carried away with festivities, because getting arrested in a foreign country is no joke. You are more than likely to be held overnight in a jail cell until such time as you appear before a magistrate, which is not a pleasant experience. Then there is the time required to attend your hearing, which may require extra nights being needed in a hotel and possible legal fees for hiring an attorney. This obviously does not include the tricky topic of explaining why you are not back at work on Monday in your home country. Weigh these costs up against the cost of using alternative transport. The safest thing is to plan your travels carefully and to make use of bar facilities either at your place of accommodation, or to make use of a taxi get to to and from external venues. Most establishments have got a recommended taxi operator listed, and it is a simple task to get his cell number recorded for later use. For large groups Swazi Trails offer evening shuttle services using 22-seater shuttle buses.
And just an insiders warning from Swazi Trails: Our local paper is also full of stories of travellers from our neighbouring countries, who are charged for attempted to bribe police officers. It doesn’t work here, don’t try it, offering a bribe is a short-cut to doubling your fine and reputational pain in court.
What you can do as a hospitality establishment?
Revenue from bar sales is an important contribution to the overall hospitality industry economy, and a couple of drinks are typically the social fuel for memorable leisure activities, but there remains a responsibility to ensure guests get safely home again. Whilst there is no legislated duty of care, to ensure patrons don’t drink and drive, there certainly is a moral responsibility to make alternatives to DD easily available. DD warning signs and posters can be put up in rest rooms and at the door. Offers could be made by the manager on duty to source a taxi driver for safe onward conveyance. Special arrangements could also be made to either safely park patron’s cars overnight, or arrange a local sober driver to do the shuttle. Its an opportunity to demonstrate real hospitality and care… so ensure staff and managers are briefed to go the extra mile! The business case is also strong: if patrons know that they have a safe and easy way to get home, there will no doubt be an extra round or two at the bar.
Please join us in stamping out drink-driving in Swaziland. If you wish to read more about alcohol consumption in Swaziland read the World Health Organisation Global Alcohol Report
Swaziland Beverages is the major supplier of alcohol in Swaziland – their public statement on drinking-driving includes the following:
People who are drunk should not drive. We respect the drink driving laws of our country, including maximum blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits for drivers, and we encourage enforcement of those laws. We encourage targeted education and intervention programmes that encourage people not to drive while drunk. We support these programmes by not portraying drink driving as acceptable behaviour in our marketing.
The Automobile Association (AA) of Southern Africa also has some well-researched articles on the dangers of DD. See Alcohol and road use: a single outcome