Cellphone Users Be Warned!

By Faryn Pearson, Associate in the Litigation department

We all know it is illegal to hold your cellphone to your ear whilst driving, so we have come up with other ways to communicate whilst driving, for example, putting our cellphone on speaker and placing it in our laps. We also use Maps or Google Maps and place the phone in our laps while letting the voice prompts tell us where to go, occasionally glancing down at our phone to make sure we are following the correct route.

Contrary to what most people believe, all of this behaviour is illegal, and the consequence of being caught doing any of the above is immediate confiscation of your cellphone, carrying a confiscation fee of R1165 if not collected within 24 hours, and a fine.

The National Road Traffic Act No. 93 of 1996 deals with the prohibition of the use of a communication device whilst driving. The Act has an extremely broad definition of what constitutes use of a cell phone whilst driving. The regulations provide that:

“No person shall drive a vehicle on a public road, while holding a cellular or mobile telephone or any other communication device in one or both hands or with any part of the body…No person shall drive a vehicle on a public road while using or operating a cellular or mobile telephone or other communication device unless..[it] is affixed to the vehicle or is part of the fixture in the vehicle and remains so affixed while being used or operated, or is specially adapted or designed to be affixed to the person of the driver as headgear…”

This means that you cannot put your cellphones on speaker and place it your lap whilst driving. It is illegal to hold your cellphone in your hand/s or with any other part of your body whilst you are driving, regardless of whether or not you are using it or not. You also cannot use GPS on our phones unless your phone is affixed to the vehicle or affixed to the driver as headgear. Appropriate, legal, alternatives therefore include hands free car kits, cellphone holders / mounts for your car and Bluetooth headsets.

Donald Grant, MEC of Transport and Public Works, said: “Distracted driving remains one of the leading causes of crashes that result in serious injury and, too often, death on our roads. As the United States’ National Safety Council points out, brain activity in the areas that process moving images decreases by over 33% when we are talking on our phone.”