Not only will drivers caught speaking on their mobiles face a new R1 500 fine, but those texting will also face the strong arm of the law.
From January next year, the City of Cape Town will be increasing the fine for offenders caught talking on their mobile phones while driving to R1 500. Repeat offenders are going to be looking at a fine of around R4 000 – which basically means you might as well buy a new phone in some cases.
At the moment, offenders have to fork out R500 when they are caught talking on their phone while driving, and the City impounds the phone as a result.
Mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, says the City is doing it to deter people from using their phones, but that it’s also working out the finer details of exactly what it will be charging offenders – the idea is to get it as close to what it actually costs the City to carry out the admin. But repeat offenders will still be punished heavily.
The City says it’s going to go after cellphone offenders just as it has done with drunk drivers.
According to the Argus:
Studies have shown this to be more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol.
The first cellphone impound operation was held in July.
Since then 188 phones have been confiscated.
When the city first started considering cellphone impoundment, the phones would only be taken away if a motorist was caught using a phone three times while driving.
But it was decided to take the phones away immediately after the first offence.
At one stage, officers were recording more than 1600 cellphone-related offences on city roads over a three-month period. This was even higher than drinking and driving cases over the same time.
Since the start of the confiscation, there has been a slight decrease in offences. But the city said it was still “not at an acceptable level”.
Those caught talking or texting have their phones confiscated after a first offence.
At the moment, motorist pay the R500 fine and their phone is released.
After the second offence, the fine goes up to R1 000. And after the third, the fine is R2 000. In many cases, although steep, the fines are still less than what the motorist would to pay to replace one of the latest smartphones.
It is hoped the higher financial penalty will have the same effect on those who dial and drive.
“We want to move to the point where drivers take evasive action. This is to push people to use the hands-free kit, which they should be doing in the first place.”
Each month, 20 more traffic officers are trained in the impoundment process, meaning all will have received the training over the next few months.
This would mean extra officers across Cape Town would be equipped to impound phones, meaning increased enforcement.
The Argus decided to do a little bit of research on Monday, and found that the most common offenders in the City Bowl were men who drove 4×4 bakkies:
Over two hours on Monday we spotted more than 50 drivers using their cellphones while driving. The majority of the perpetrators were men driving 4×4 bakkies around the CBD.
Five drivers were spotted on their phones along Long Street in the space of just 30 minutes.
Well over 1000 cars were counted in the two hours.
Some drivers were gob-smacked when they realised they had been spotted by our photographer.
Most of the culprits were spotted on Orange Street; only 12 were using their phones legally – with a hands-free kit.
On Wale Street, mostly women were using their cellphones while driving – five were spotted in just less than 30 minutes.
The Argus closed off with some hard hitting facts:
Studies have shown that using a cellphone while driving can be more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol.
Driving while using a cellphone is on Arrive Alive’s list of 14 most common distractions while driving.
In an international survey, 837 drivers were observed using a cellphone while driving. The survey found that almost half drifted into another lane, 23 per cent tailgated, 21 per cent cut off another road user, and 18 per cent nearly hit another vehicle.
Research has also found that using a cellphone can slow a driver’s response by 35 per cent.
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