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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 December, 2003, 11:33 GMT
SA's drunken-driving 'emergency'
South African bus crash
An average of 40 people die each day on South Africa's roads
The rate of drink-driving is an "emergency situation," says South Africa's transport department.

Almost 50% of those killed on the roads are over the legal limit for alcohol in their blood, an official said.

And some 60% of pedestrians involved in traffic accidents are over the limit, said Wendy Watson ahead of New Year's Eve, when crashes and drinking soar.

However, road deaths have fallen 10% from last year, with 846 traffic deaths during the holiday season so far.

Breathalyser problems

"It has been classified as an emergency situation because we are going towards New Year," Ms Watson told the Cape Times newspaper.

"In theory, if you can take away alcohol from road usage, you can halve the number of crashes."

A problem with breathalyser machines in the Western Cape province has led to a huge rise in the number of drink-drivers there, she said.

"There seems to be a problem with the alcohol detection machinery, so prosecutions have been delayed."

"Every day throughout the year an average of 40 families are bereaved by an unnecessary death," the transport department said.

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