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Even one drink will see motor insurance claims rejected

11 December 2020 Old Mutual Insure

Zero alcohol drunk driving rules mean no dinking for drivers whatsoever

“Having even one drink and getting behind the wheel holds the possibility of real jail time this silly season,” warns Christelle Colman, Spokesperson for Old Mutual Insure. Very shortly too, that one drink will also see “drivers’ insurance claims rejected,” she adds.

Amendments to Section 65 of the National Road Traffic Act effectively changes the legal blood alcohol content limit for drivers from 0.05 grams per 100 millilitres to 0.00 grams per 100 millilitres. The permitted breath alcohol concentration will change from 0.24 grams per 1000 millilitres also to zero. Since the insurance industry cannot apply policies in conflict with the law, reducing the blood alcohol limit to zero means that, “once this amendment is gazetted (?) any motor policy holder found to have been driving with even trace elements of alcohol in their blood will be uninsured,” says Colman.

With South Africa suffering, on average, over 13000 deaths a year from motor accidents it is very clear that something needs to be done. As such, Colman is also encouraged to see that the new zero alcohol levels are to be supported by proper enforcement. Police have, for example, announced that roadblocks will be in force throughout the country on the, “15, 16, 23, 24, 30 and 31 December 2020, including Fridays through to Sundays during the holiday period,” reports Colman. Once the amendment becomes law, vehicles of drivers with even trace elements of alcohol in their blood will be impounded and only returned after a R2000 fine – if all fines are up to date. If drivers are arrested over the weekend, cases will only be processed on the first Monday morning thereafter, “presenting anyone with even limited levels of alcohol in their system with the prospect of real jail time this December,” warns Colman.

While it is hoped that proper enforcement will contribute to reducing road death numbers, “the new legislation also has serious implications for South African motor policy holders,” says Colman. If motor policy holders are involved in an accident after even one drink, “they won’t only be facing the prospect of jail time but will also find themselves uninsured. Once the Amendment to Section 65 is law, insurers will reject accident claims outright regardless of the levels of alcohol in the blood,” says Colman. While strict by global standards, it is very clear that South Africa needs to begin to take its road death figures, and effective road safety enforcement, much more seriously. Colman hopes that this is a first step in regaining control of our roads and improving the safety of driving in South Africa in general.

The new legislation will also help remove confusion around at what blood alcohol level driving ability is actually impaired. Individuals metabolise alcohol very differently. There has always been confusion about what level of blood alcohol causes impairment. “Zero alcohol removes this confusion entirely,” adds Colman. Since drugs are also a factor in South Africa’s road death figures, Colman also warns that, “an insurance claim can be rejected if a driver is believed to have acted in a reckless manner and this behaviour is believed to be the cause of damage or destruction to a vehicle.” As such, drug users who think they can evade roadblocks testing for alcohol, should also be aware that poor driving or negligence may also see insurance claims rejected.

With a limited curfew in place and most people cautious about socialising due to a second wave of Covid-19, South Africa stands a good chance of reducing its road death figures this silly season. Motorists are also advised to make use of the value-add services provided by their insurer. “Most reputable insurers offer a number of value-added services that typically includes a limited number of Drive-Me-Home rides that can be prearranged before a night out,” explains Colman. The increasing use of Uber and other mobile ride-hailing servicers also provides a generally accessible alternative to driving with alcohol in your blood. These services are there to help policyholders avoid drinking and driving while having a good time. Motorists are encouraged to use them, not only to save lives, but also “ensure that insurance policies remain valid in the event of accident this silly season,” says Colman.

While visible and ubiquitous physical policing combined with effective prosecution are key to reducing South Africa’s unacceptably hight road death rates, the increasing use of digital tracking and surveillance across the full range of devices and platforms that drivers use means that “the insurance industry is also much more able to monitor and observe the kind of poor or erratic driving that may indicate drug or alcohol use,” said Colman. It is expected that this technology will also, in time, go a long way to helping independently tackle what is, in South Africa, an acute crisis requiring coordinated intervention,” concludes Colman.

Quick Polls

QUESTION

How to give affordable and appropriate financial advice to the low income market segment. There is little room on a R50 pm policy for advisers to be remunerated for the time it would it would take to educate & fulfil admin function. What is the solution?

ANSWER

[a] Eliminate non-advice sales / telesales
[b] Implement industry standards for non-advice information
[c] Introduce an insurer-funded pro-bono advice network to low income earners
[d] Reinforce the Policyholder Protection Rules
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