How drinking and driving will affect your insurance claim

As we head towards summer and the festive season, the probability of having a few drinks and then driving becomes higher. Aside from facing a huge fine, a potential prison sentence and a criminal record - it is important to remember that your insurance company is under no obligation to meet your claim if you are under the influence of alcohol when you’re involved in an accident.

South African road death statistics
More than 4,500 people died on South African roads in 2014/2015, with drunk driving being one of the key contributing factors. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 58% of all road deaths are alcohol-related. Most fatal crashes occur over weekends, with the drivers most likely to be young men between 19 and 34 years old. Women and children have the highest propensity to die as passengers, especially in public transport vehicles. Unfortunately, the WHO also scores South Africa very low on enforcing the national laws intended to combat drunk driving, a mere 4 out of 10.

What is the legal blood alcohol limit?
Most people do not realise just how little it takes to be over the legal alcohol limit. Basically, two drinks in the space of one hour will put your over the legal limit. The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.05g per 100ml, or the legal breath alcohol limit is 0.24mg in 1000ml of breath. Arrive Alive provides detailed advice about drinking and driving limits in this article. However, to avoid any risk they recommend not drinking at all when you are going to drive, rather take a taxi, or Uber, or appoint a designated driver to get you home safely.

Insurance implications of drinking and driving
A car accident can be very stressful and it’s even more so when a drunk driver is involved. If you are found guilty of drunk driving, your insurance provider is under no obligation to meet your claim. Most insurance policies include a clause that stipulates cover exclusion if the driver is found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, has an alcohol concentration in their bloodstream or in any specimen of breath exceeding the legal limit.

Further consequences may include your insurance company considering you too high a risk to continue your car insurance, or your monthly insurance premium increasing significantly as you are classified a high-risk driver.

It is important to realise that your insurer does not need a court conviction to prove you have been drinking - they can rely on circumstantial evidence. Insurers will often conduct their own investigation to verify your claim - checking your cell phone records, credit card statements, restaurant bills as well as police, paramedics and hospital reports. Be sure to always be truthful - if they discover you have not been telling the truth, your claim will be rejected.

For your own safety as well as everyone else on the road, always use of a taxi service when you have been drinking as even a small amount of alcohol can affect your reaction time.

Talk to your local Garrun broker if you have any further questions with regards to vehicle insurance.