Cops may confiscate your cellphone

The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) believes that all mobile phone packages should be sold with a hands free kit, and has called on SA operators to actively endorse safe driving by not using a mobile phone when in front of the wheel.

Cape Town authorities recently announced that they are considering amending the traffic by-law to allow traffic officers to confiscate cellphones from motorists who are using their phones while driving.

The City of Cape Town said that more than 1,600 city motorists were caught using their cellphones over a three month period. The initial plan is to allow a traffic officer to confiscate a cellphone after a third offence.

Some reports however suggest that authorities are considering amending the traffic by-law to enable officers to confiscate cellphones from motorists after the first offence.

Driving while using a mobile phone

RTMC spokesman, Ashref Ismail told MyBroadband BusinessTech that driving while distracted is of great concern, citing a number of statistics including the fact that drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.

The spokesperson also noted that distracted driving was up to six times more dangerous than driving whilst under the influence of alcohol.

“We would urge (mobile) industry players to assist government, particularly from an educational level, and to come on board to alert people to the dangers of driving whilst distracted,” Ismail said.

“We all know that technology has a role to play in making our lives easier, but industry players also have a role to play in warning of the dangers of driving whilst distracted.”

Ismail said that RTMC is of the opinion that all mobile packages should come with a hands free kit.

“Nobody buys a phone believing that they will only use it when they are at home. Why don’t all mobile packages come with a hands free kit?” asked Ismail.

Ismail quickly stressed that using a hands free kit whilst driving would not eliminate potential accidents; “It would minimise, or reduce that potential,” he said. “It’s the lesser of two evils.”

The Road Traffic Management Corporation will monitor the current programme being conducted by the City of Cape Town specifically targeting motorists who talk on their mobile phones whilst driving.

Ismail said that if the above programme proved successful, the RTMC would consult with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and look at incorporating it as a traffic by-law countrywide.

Vodacom spokesperson Richard Boorman said that they have long said that the most dangerous thing about a mobile phone was texting while driving. “We wholeheartedly support initiatives designed to reduce unsafe usage of a cellphone,” said Boorman.

“The question of whether a specific punishment is appropriate is more difficult – it’s up to the legislators to decide,” Boorman said.

MTN and Cell C did not provide comment on whether they support initiatives which will reduce the dangerous use of cellphones while driving.

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Cops may confiscate your cellphone