How much can you drink before you can drive this festive season?

Do not get behind the wheel if you are a woman who has consumed more than a half quart of beer or a man who has exceeded three standard drinks.

Ahead of the festive season, South African Breweries (SAB) has released a guide on alcohol units and measures in an effort “to reduce the harm that alcohol abuse causes to South Africans.”


The legal limit is a breath alcohol content of 0.24mg per 1 000ml, or a blood alcohol limit of 0.05g per 100ml.

The South African government defines moderate alcohol consumption as no more than two standard drinks, 340ml or a half quart of beer per day for women and no more than three standard drinks per day for men.

“The rule of thumb is a maximum of one unit of alcohol per hour, which constitutes 10ml of pure alcohol, based on an adult weighing 68kg.

“Our bodies can process only one unit of alcohol each hour. Be aware that if you weigh less than 68kg your body will need more time to process the same amount of alcohol,” SAB warned in a statement.

What does one unit represent:

  • It is equal to two thirds of a beer or spirit cooler with 5% alcohol content.
  • For those who drink wine, 75ml of red or white wine per hour with an alcohol content of 12% to 14% is acceptable.
  • Spirit drinkers can imbibe up to one 25ml tot of alcohol per hour.

Alcohol content is also expressed as a percentage of the whole drink. Wine that says ‘13 ABV’ on its label contains 13% pure alcohol.

“Alcohol significantly slows reaction time and distorts your vision, and the effects of a heavy night of drinking could well affect your driving ability the next morning, and you may still even be over the legal limit,” said SAB spokesperson Nirishi Trikamjee.

Quick-fix solutions to sober up, such as drinking coffee, taking a cold shower or drinking a litre of water before driving are myths.

“Once the alcohol is in your system your liver is going to need time to process it, and restricting yourself to only one unit per hour is the only way to stay sober in the eyes of the law.”



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