Less than half of the 9 465 cellphones impounded from motorists who were caught using them while driving since 2012 have been reclaimed by the owners.
An average of 3 155 phones a year have been confiscated since the introduction of the City of Cape Town’s impoundment policy which came into effect in July 2012, the City said in a statement.
To date, only 4 182 motorists have reclaimed their phones.
The numbers are an indication that many motorists still refuse to acknowledge the dangers of using cellphones while driving, said mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith.
“Research shows that distracted driving due to texting or operating a cellphone while driving is more dangerous than drunk driving and has become the leading cause of road death in many countries,” he said.
“It is astonishing to consider that people will very easily persecute drunk drivers for reckless behaviour, but cannot see the recklessness in fiddling with a cellphone while navigating through traffic.”
The City has 2 600 impounded cellphones in storage at its Ndabeni pound, with several thousand more at its traffic services offices.
Once a motorist’s device is impounded, it is handed in at the traffic services office in a sealed evidence bag or box with a copy of the impoundment receipt and placed into a suitable safe.
Owners may collect their phones 24 hours after they were impounded, provided they produce a receipt proving they have paid the impoundment fee of R1 100. This is in addition to the fine issued to the motorist for talking on a cellphone or texting while driving.
Smith said the City has yet to auction any of the cellphones, which it is able to do within three months of the impoundment date.
“We are navigating our way through uncharted territory in respect of the mobile devices, particularly the issue of personal data that remains on the phone even with the removal of the SIM card,” Smith said.
They were now waiting for a service provider to assist with the removal of data from the handsets. Only then will they begin auctioning it off.