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Police Confiscating Motorists' Phones in Cape Town

11 Juillet 2012 - Autoblog

Police Confiscating Motorists' Phones in Cape Town

The phrase "law enforcement" – and the very idea of laws themselves – is entirely dependent on that second word, "enforcement."

Without it, you don't have laws, you have a modern art installation consisting of reams of paper decorated with lines that are as useless as they are squiggly. But how enforcement is handled is just as important as the concept itself, and when it comes to laws against cell phone usage while driving, Cape Town, South Africa has gone further than any other country we've heard of.

Instead of just issuing a fine, when drivers are caught talking on their phones the authorities have begun confiscating phones for 24 hours – unless a driver is busted on Friday, in which case, the confiscation lasts until the following Monday. Using your actual cell phone handset and not a hands-free kit while driving is against the law in South Africa. It's been that way for a while, but it was found that a 500-rand ($60 U.S.) fine wasn't curbing the distracted driving habit. The next step? Take the phone away and see if that changes motorists' behavior.

In this case, Cape Town police lock the offender's phone inside a case, on the spot, and the case is later placed inside a walk-in vault at one of the traffic departments. Drivers are allowed to remove SIM and memory cards before the phone is handed over, and frankly, phones are so inexpensive in South Africa that we could – sadly – see this leading to some folks buying a new phone instead of retrieving their handset from the police. Nevertheless, SA is determined to see it through in the hopes that drivers will obey the law instead of their own communication compulsions.

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