Cellphone blitz on city highways

773905 Daylin Paul

Zara Nicholson

Metro Writer

TRAFFIC officials struck again yesterday, confiscating 18 cellphones from motorists using the devices while driving. The city has confiscated nearly 2 500 cellphones since July 2012 and says there will be a continued increase in impoundments.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith joined traffic officials yesterday on a blitz along the city’s main highways. “We deliberately targeted roads off the main arterial routes, because people tend to think that enforcement only takes place on the main routes,” Smith said.

Traffic officials confiscated 18 cellphones from motorists using their devices while driving and issued 55 fines for other transgressions.

The city’s traffic bylaw was promulgated in 2011 and traffic officials had stepped up enforcement, Smith said.

The bylaw allows the city to impound devices for 24 hours.

This was expanded last year to include a R1 000 release fee once offenders collect their cellphones.

From July 2012 to June 2013 the city confiscated 1 242 cellphones, 1 106 were released back to their owners while 136 will be sold on auction.

Since June, a further 1 218 phones were impounded. Of those 470 were released, 568 have not yet been collected and 180 will be sold on auction.

Cellphone owners have three months to collect their phones, after which the devices are sent to the city’s pound for auction.

To date, no phones have been sold on auction as the city is in the process of ensuring that it is compliant in all respects before the phones can be auctioned. This includes the removal of personal data from the devices.

Smith said the statistics showed that the rate of impoundment was steadily increasing.

“The statistics are proof of the increased focus on this particular offence, because research has found that drivers who are distracted are probably as dangerous as drunk drivers. Our road users are quick to single out drunk drivers, but those who insist on using their cellphones while behind the wheel need to realise that they too are a hazard on the road,” Smith said.

The city is the only metro in the country to take a hard line against motorists through cellphone impoundment.

Smith said various interventions had seen the region consistently achieve a reduction in the number of road accident fatalities year-on-year since 2008. “We are the only city that has managed to reverse the trend through effective use of resources and technology, and Operation Exodus which offers free roadworthy checks to public transport operators and private motorists during the festive season and over Easter.”

He appealed to motorists to use hand-free kits or pull over to use their cellphones.

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