The City of Cape Town has published its amended traffic by-laws for public comment. Changes include strict new rules on using smartphones while driving.
The traffic by-laws, which were first introduced in 2011, include a section which allows for mobile phones to be impounded if a motorist is caught using their handset while driving.
Mzwakhe Nqavashe, Chairperson of the City of Cape Town’s Safety and Security Portfolio Committee, said authorities will now actively use this section of the by-law to punish motorists.
Instead of being either auctioned or destroyed, the by-law now makes provision for confiscated phones to be donated to neighbourhood watches, NGOs, or non-profit organisations.
However, this process is not automatic, and motorists have a number of opportunities to get their phone back should it be confiscated.
“National legislation makes it illegal to use a cellphone while operating a motor vehicle, which means that a motorist will be fined if caught,” Nqavashe said.
“In Cape Town, the traffic by-law stays true to legislation in this regard, but also makes allowance for the impoundment of cellphones by authorised officials.
“This was the big talking point when the by-law was first introduced, but it was and remains part of the City’s efforts to reduce distracted driving and improve road safety.”
Confiscating cellphones in Cape Town not new
JP Smith, the mayoral committee member for safety and security, said traffic officials have been confiscating cellphones from drivers for four years.
However, under the current law, the city had to either auction or destroy the confiscated smartphones.
“While the national legislation makes the use of your cellphone or any other communications device illegal while you drive, the remedy is a fine,” Smith said.
The City of Cape Town takes this a bit further in its by-law by providing for the impounding of devices.
“In this by-law, there is a provision to donate cellphones that are impounded. It’s been four or five years that we’ve been sitting with these devices, and we now want to get rid of them,” said Smith.
“The easiest way is to destroy them, or auction them, but we were more keen to donate them to deserving beneficiaries.”
“The new by-law creates a provision for us to donate them to neighbourhood watches, NGOs, or non-profit organisations,” he said.