Phoning while driving costs a lot

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It was a day of drama yesterday (when) 16 motorists had their cellphones seized as Cape Town traffic officers began to clamp down on drivers using the device without a hands-free kit while driving.

While most drivers who were pulled off the Nelson Mandela Boulevard said they were not aware of the new city by-law empowering traffic officers to confiscate their cellphones, some were angry and one driver burst into tears.

Besides having to part with their phones for at least 24 hours, motorists were also fined R500.

Driving a black BMW, Kirsten Burgess broke down after a bout of rage as she told the officers they can keep her “brand new” BlackBerry because, “I don’t give a s**t if I get it back”.

Burgess was so upset that she told the officer impounding her phone that she did not know whether it had a memory card or how to open it.

“Explain to me why are they taking my pictures,” she asked furiously as the officers tried to calm her down.

Elizabeth Lamb who was pulled off while driving a dark green Honda Ballade, said she did not know about the new by-law as she had not watched the news or read newspapers reporting about it coming into effect.

Lamb said she had received a call from someone who wanted to know where she was. “I picked up the phone and only spoke for 30 seconds to say I was on my way.

“My daughter has just had a baby,” she said.

The R500 fine was okay, but she needed her phone, Lamb said.

When pulled off another driver, Jason Hill, initially denied he was talking on his cellphone.

He asked the traffic officers what they were doing and furiously demanded that photographers at the scene stop taking his picture.

He calmed down after an officer told him there was video footage showing him talking on his cellphone while driving and that the media was there to help warn the rest of the country about the consequences of using a cellphone while driving.

Hill told the officers he was not aware of the by-law.

He then co-operated with them.

Another operation was held on the N1 and N7 where cellphones were also confiscated from drivers.

JP Smith, mayco member for safety and security, said a total of 16 drivers caught using their cellphones were pulled off between 3pm and 5.30pm

“I’m a bit disappointed though, I was hoping it was going to be naught,” said Smith, before adding that yesterday’s operation was widely publicised in the media.

He said the result was nonetheless positive, because under normal operations the officers would have encountered up to five times the number of drivers who were caught on their cellphones yesterday.

He said the city would continue enforcing the by-law as part of its normal operations and that he hoped drivers would buy a hands-free kit and use it if they needed to.

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