Don’t be #Salah! What law says about phone use and driving

By Motoring Staff Time of article published Aug 14, 2018

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Liverpool player Mohamed Salah appears to have landed himself in hot water after his own team reported him to the police for using his phone while driving.

Salah was filmed texting behind the wheel of his Mercedes GLE Coupe while stopped in a traffic jam and surrounded by young fans - one of whom filmed the video. See full story and video here.

Some might argue that he was not doing anything dangerous as his vehicle was stopped at the time, but that’s no excuse in the eyes of the UK law and Salah now faces losing six points on his licence as well as a (albeit puny to him) fine of up to £200 (R3600).

But what exactly does the law in South Africa say about phone usage behind the wheel? And could you have an insurance claim refuted if you crash while using your phone? 

In South Africa, motorists can reportedly be fined up to R750 for making use of their cell phone while driving.

However, in the Western Cape there is a bylaw, first introduced in 2012, that allows officials to confiscate the motorist's phone for 24 hours. This is in addition to a R500 fine and a ‘release fee’ of over R1000.

This is what the law says:

Regulation 308A stipulates that motorists may not drive on a public road while holding a mobile phone or any other communication device in one or both hands, or with any other part of the body.

Drivers may however, use these devices through the car’s systems (ie Bluetooth) or through headgear specifically designed for such a purpose.

But what about picking up your phone to send a quick text while you’re stopped at a red traffic light? 

This not allowed, according to Arrive Alive - as long as the engine is running, you are considered by law to be driving.

Besides the legal implications, there are many other reasons to avoid using your phone while on the move.

For starters, research shows that it is very dangerous. The International Transport Forum’s 2013 annual road safety report, found that around 25 percent of road crashes in South Africa were caused by cell phone usage behind the wheel.

It also cites distractions as being among the leading causes of vehicle accidents among young people.

Refuted insurance claims

There is also the possibility that your insurance claim could be refused, should you be involved in an accident and it is subsequently found that you were using your phone at the time.

This could even apply in situations where the other driver caused the accident.

According to Personal Finance, it comes down to how your specific policy is worded. The publication spoke to three insurers and one of them, Alexander Forbes, said it would be “within its rights” not to approve the claim.

However, it all depends on whether your insurer would list the behaviour as “gross negligence” and whether the insurance company has a specific exclusion against gross negligence.

It is always best to check the exact wording of your policy. And better yet to avoid any kind of distraction while driving.

IOL Motoring

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