30 march 2012 drivers on cellphone whilst driving.

From today (1 July) Cape Town drivers caught talking or texting on their cellphones while driving can expect hefty fines.

The city’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, warned that traffic officials will be out in force enforcing the by-law throughout the city, and those caught can expect their cellphones to be confiscated for 24 hours and to pay a fine of R5000.

Road Traffic Management Corporation spokesman Ashref Ismail said the corporation welcomed any intervention that discouraged cellphone usage while driving.

He said: “A person who talks on the cellphone while driving is four percent more likely to cause an accident and somebody texting while driving is seven percent more likely to be involved in an accident. This almost makes texting more dangerous than drinking and driving.

Chapter six of the traffic by-law of 2011 was promulgated on July 22 last year and comes into effect today.

The by-law states:

Motorists may not drive a vehicle on a public road while holding a cellphone or any other communication device in one or both hands or with any other part of the body.

Motorists may not drive while using or operating a cellphone or other communication device unless it is attached to the vehicle or is a fixture in the vehicle and remains attached while in use.

Hands-free kits or headgear must be designed in such a way that the user does not need to hold the device with any part of the body.

At present, the city issues between 3000 and 8000 fines a month to drivers caught using their phones while driving.

Smith said confiscated cellphones could be collected at the vehicle pound at Gallows Hill Traffic Department, Green Point, after 24 hours.

Drivers would have to produce an identity document when collecting phones.

Phones would be kept in special boxes which would be sealed in front of the owner. Each driver would be issued with a serial number corresponding to that on the box containing his or her phone.

Smith said: “The seal will have a serial number which will be included in the impoundment notice.”

The seal would only be broken in the driver’s presence to ensure the security of the phone.

Drivers would be at liberty to remove their SIM or memory cards from their phones, and also to switch their phones off.

Smith said the initiative was part of the Safely Home campaign aimed at reducing the road death toll in the Western Cape by 50 percent by 2014.

He said major causes of road accidents were drinking and driving, speed, non-use of safety belts and distracted driving.

Smith said no impoundment fees would be charged in the next 12 months, but eventually such fees would be levied against errant motorists as well as the fine.

He said Cape Town was the only city where the road death toll was decreasing steadily.

With the toll at 571 at the end of June this year, the Western Cape’s road deaths have been on a steady decline from 1739 in 2008, 1567 in 2009 to 1487 in 2010 and 1321 in 2011.

Spokesman for the provincial traffic and public works department, Siphesihle Dube, said MEC Robin Carlisle endorsed the new by-law as something that would strengthen motorists’ commitment to responsible driving.

Dube said the department would move for similar legislation to be passed by the provincial government. - Cape Times