In Cape Town, South Africa, motorists caught talking or texting on their mobile phone will be fined R500 (about $70) and have their phone confiscated for a day – it’s part of a provincial road safety campaign to cut road deaths in half by 2014.
There is also talk of rolling out the project to other cities in the country.
At a restaurant in Johannesburg’s Melville area, I decide to have a little fun and put the law to the test by observing mortorists using their mobile phones while driving.
It’s the middle of winter, but it’s one of those rare days when it’s unusually warm for this time of year.
So the restaurant terrace is open and I can look at the traffic outside.
I try to count how many people are on their phones as they zoom past.
I count four in ten minutes.
Some are very funny – they know they are breaking the law so try to make it look like they are not talking on the phone when they are.
One man drops his phone mid-sentence, while he rummages for it the light changes and the drivers behind him start hooting.
I wonder how people in Johannesburg would react to having their phones confiscated for a day.
We have all become so dependent on them, I’m left to wonder if the threat of having them taken away can be enough to stop people using them when they drive.
The Mail & Guardian, one of the local weekly newspapers has the story online.
Here are some reader comments about the law:
“If you’re stupid enough to drive whilst on your phone …. then the phone must be taken!!!take a look at the carnage caused by drivers not focussing on the road.”
“Just another case of going after the soft targets! Sort out all the lazy cops who nap under the trees and their colleagues using their phones while driving, first. Visible policing and education is the only thing that will stop the carnage. Just another “wishful thinking” money spinner! “
“Here is the issue. A cellphone is issued to employees as a condition of their employment. Confiscating the phone that does not belong to the issuer maybe the best option compared to permanent impounding it. This is because such an individual may then be liable to their company to the tune of R7,000 in addition to the R5,000. Temporary impound works in making it a warning, but phones should only be released once full payment is made.”
“It’s a start, but their phones should be confiscated, with their SIM-cards, and destroyed. The inconvenience these idiots will suffer would deter them from offending again.”
So, mixed feelings from some South Africans.
Using your mobile phone while driving is already against the law but it seems officials feel some South Africans need a little bit more persuading. Swift justice could do the trick, and I suspect make a little money for the police as well.
Who knows if the Cape Town example will ever be enforced in the commercial capital Johannesburg. There doesn’t seem to be much panic here – just amusement at the idea.
The one simple way out of it is maybe get a hands free set. It will save you a fine and losing your phone for 24 hours!