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Johannesburg - If the City of Cape Town has its way, motorists who are caught using their cellphones while driving will be forced to hand over their mobile devices to law enforcement officers.

The Mother City then plans to donate these confiscated cell phones to neighbourhood watches, NGOs or non-profit organisations.

These drastic measures aimed to promote road safety form part of the City’s draft document which has published its amended traffic by-law for public comment.

The impoundment of cellphones belonging to motorists caught using their devices while driving, was one of the priorities of the original by-law, which was first introduced about eight years ago.

The current version of the draft documentation encourages traffic officials to donate the confiscated cellphones to those in need instead of auctioning or destroying them.

While this particular provision to the City of Cape Town’s traffic by-laws might appear to be an infringement on the personal property of its citizens, it is aimed, if passed, to deter culpable motorists from reckless behaviour on its roads.

However, the draft documentation of this traffic by-law suggests that there will be several opportunities for motorists to get their cellphones back should it be confiscated as the City insists that the process is not automatic.

Meanwhile, Joburg’s MMC for Public Safety Michael Sun said this week that while the city struggled with its own high rate of cellphone usage while operating a motor vehicle, they are not in a rush to adopt a similar approach to that of Cape Town. “While we agree that the challenge of distracted driving remains one we deal with on a daily basis, the City of Joburg would have to evaluate the specific context in which Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) operates before deciding on the feasibility of adopting a similar approach,” said Sun.

“We will adopt a conservative approach and study the process before making a formal determination.”

While JMPD spokesperson Senior Superintendent Wayne Minnaar said that they would not comment on how the City of Cape Town impounds cell phones, Sun argued that the digital realm poses new challenges for law enforcement officials to deal with.

“We live in a digital world where our lives seem to fit into these mobile devices.”

“We are constantly attached to these gadgets, often to our detriment especially when we decide to text while driving or to take a selfie or do a live video, we make the decision to endanger our lives and those of others.”

Sun stressed that in terms of the Road Traffic Act, it is illegal for motorists to use their mobile devices, except through Bluetooth, while driving.

“The legislation stipulates that both hands must be on the steering while driving a motor vehicle. The reason it becomes a dangerous exercise is because the driver actually then only has one hand on the steering wheel and is distracted not only with the phone to the ear but by the actual conversation being had.

“This becomes a life-threatening exercise not only to your life but to other drivers on the road and could lead to fatal accidents, or serious medical conditions due to the accident caused.”

Sun added that the City of Johannesburg currently had its own multi-disciplinary strategies to discourage motorists from using their cellphones while driving.

“In 2018, the City of Joburg’s Public Safety Department had a campaign that was endorsed by the SABC’s commercial radio stations in which we asked motorists to sign a pledge ‘not to text and drive’.

“From this campaign, we received over 10 000 pledges, and through the radio station’s phone- ins and our social media platforms we received an additional 7 000 pledges and where able to reach over 100 000 listeners per show.”

He added that the City was working with schools and universities in the city to promote safe driving habits. “We have worked with the University of Johannesburg to produce a video for their students which is flighted on their platforms about the risks and dangers of texting and driving,” said Sun.

Saturday Star