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Cellphone crackdown - first busts

The first cellphone confiscation has taken place in Cape Town, as the new law was enforced for the first time.

As of today, drivers who are caught talking on their phones while driving, without headsets or hands-free kits, will have their handsets confiscated by traffic officers.

Taxi driver Jean-Benoit Biyoko was caught talking on his phone while driving in Long Street. Picture: Henk Kruger. Credit: INLSA

The first driver caught this morning was Jean-Benoit Biyoko, a taxi driver. Traffic officers nabbed him in Long Street in the CBD.

The traffic service's Maxine Jordaan reported: “He didn't have a driving licence on him and he was taken to Gallows Hill traffic department.

“His cellphone, a Nokia E63, had a SIM card and memory card in it, which he kept, and he kept his pouch too.

“The gentleman was very co-operative and said he was sorry.”

Jordaan said Biyoko had been fined R500 for talking on his cellphone while driving and would be permitted to collect his phone 24 hours after it was confiscated - on Friday morning.

The new City law was to be enforced across the city this afternoon, with officers from the undercover 'Ghost Squad', and other officers, deployed on major commuter routes.

Officers' vehicles will carry special boxes, in which confiscated phones will be placed once they have been logged and sealed in protective pouches. They will then be stored in the traffic department's safe at Gallows Hill.

No fee is required to reclaim a confiscated phone.

The bylaw was introduced by safety and security Mayco member JP Smith, who has received praise from across the country for the action against drivers who continue to flout the law.

Smith said camera and video evidence would be used whenever possible to back up officers' observations.

“We're hoping that everybody will finally get the message, grab those hands-free kits and start using cellphones legally”, Smith said.

“We issue a minimum of 8000 fines a month for illegal cellphone use while driving. But it's not changing behaviour, so we must find a more powerful disincentive.

“Illegal cellphone use is classified as 'distracted driving' and is one of the four ost dangerous driving habits, with speeding, drinking and driving and not wearing seatbelts.” - Cape Argus

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