If a driver is caught using their cellphone, even if the vehicle is stationary, they will be fined and their cellphone confiscated by traffic officers for breaking the law. National legislation states that as long as the engine is running and you are behind the wheel, you cannot operate your cellphone. And if you are caught, you can be fined up to R500, your cellphone will be taken away and you will have to pay a further impound fee to get it back.
In a conversation on Cape Talk, JP Smith, Mayoral Committee Member for Safety, Security and Social Services, City of Cape Town said that distracted driving is the leading cause of death, along with speeding and drunk driving and that fining people was having an extremely limited impact.
“We are not winning this battle. We have impounded 1500 phones a month, we’ve done 4 477 phones between July and October (2017), so we’re impounding a lot more. We’ve stepped up enforcement, and fines.”
Smith is adamant that they have to do what they can to drive those figures down and that this is probably the reason why Cape Town is stabilising and reducing year-on-year fatality figures, whilst elsewhere in South Africa it keeps on increasing.
Callers reached out on the show to accuse the City of creating a money-making racket, calling the city disingenuous and raising revenue instead of awareness.
Smith denied the accusations saying: “The fee we charge is cost recovery related, we are not making money from this. We have to buy boxes for the phones, there’s also admin fees related to that. The money that we make goes into a bottomless budget. The revenue doesn’t arrive back to the traffic department so no fines and impoundments are done for the purpose of revenue.”
He added that the City are revising the traffic by-laws and it may be possible to differentiate when to impound a cellphone and charge a motorist based on whether or not a vehicle is moving or not. An example would be using Google Maps, you need to use the app if you are driving and you might hold the phone in your hand while doing so. Smith said that in these cases a bracket to hold your cellphone is necessary and you will not be charged if the cellphone is on and cradled in a bracket.
Offenders can expect to pay a R1,165.00 fee for the release of an impounded electronic device, as well as possible fine for contravening the rules of the road. See which fines you may be liable to pay here.