Ombudsman warns against driving drunk

It’s holiday season and people who drink and drive give a sigh of relief when they reach home in one piece if they take the back roads to avoid police roadblocks or being pulled over by a law enforcement officer.

But there are other consequences to drinking and driving, Deanne Wood, the Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance (Osti) has warned.

“What many road-users fail to consider is the devastating financial effect that driving under the influence may have on a payout from their insurer should they be involved in an accident because the majority of insurance policies exclude cover for any loss or damage where it is found that an insured driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of an accident or that the percentage of alcohol in their blood exceeded the legal limit,” Ms Wood said.

“In criminal cases, the State has to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that a driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In civil cases, however, such as claims under an insurance policy, the insurer only has to show on a balance of probabilities that the motorist was driving under the influence.

“The insurer does not need to depend entirely on the results of a blood test or Breathalyser. It is sufficient to sway the probabilities in its favour if the insurer is able to produce circumstantial evidence to demonstrate that the driver was under the influence of alcohol.

“Examples of circumstantial evidence include statements by police or emergency service personnel at the scene of the accident, doctors or nurses who attended to a driver who was admitted to hospital, eye witnesses who were able to observe the driver’s behaviour or witnesses who can account for the driver’s whereabouts before the accident, security or video footage from restaurants or bars.

“If the circumstantial evidence establishes on a balance of probabilities that a driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of an accident, we will support the insurer’s decision to reject the claim,” Ms Wood said.

Contact the Osti on email: info@osti.co.za or www.osti.co.za or phone 011 726 8900 for more information.

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