The City of Cape Town has published its amended traffic by-law for public comment.
First introduced in 2011, the by-law regulates public transport vehicles and traffic within the city’s jurisdiction.
One of the key aspects of the original by-law was the impoundment of cellphones of motorists caught using the devices while driving.
Chairperson of the City’s Safety and Security Portfolio Committee, Mzwakhe Nqavashe, said the city will now actively use this section of the by-law to punish motorists.
Instead of being either auctioned or destroyed, the by-law now makes provision for the phones to be donated to neighbourhood watches, NGOs or non-profit organisations.
However this process is not automatic, and motorists have a number of opportunities to get their phone back should it be confiscated.
“National legislation makes it illegal to use a cellphone while operating a motor vehicle, which means that a motorist will be fined if caught,” Nqavashe said.
“In Cape Town, the traffic by-law stays true to legislation in this regard, but also makes allowance for the impoundment of cellphones by authorised officials.
“This was the big talking point when the by-law was first introduced, but it was and remains part of the City’s efforts to reduce distracted driving and improve road safety.”
In addition to the new sections around phones, the by-law has now been amended to include five new chapters dealing with a number of new infringements.
Notably, in terms of the draft document, authorised officials may, in the interest and the safety of the public, without prior written notice, impound vehicles where the:
Vehicle was involved in reckless or negligent driving or illegal street racing;
Vehicle is unlicensed or the licence disc has been expired for more than 90 days;
Vehicle is unregistered;
Vehicle is not fitted with licence plates;
Vehicle is damaged or is in a state of disrepair and is, in the opinion of the authorised official, not roadworthy;
Vehicle is a taxi which is being operated in contravention of the conditions of approval its operating licence or off the approved route;
Vehicle has been left abandoned;
Driver of the vehicle is unlicensed, or the driver does not have his or her driver’s licence available for inspection;
Driver of the vehicle is under the influence of intoxicating liquor or a drug having a narcotic effect; or
Driver did not stop when signalled to do so by an authorised official resulting in the driver having to be pursued and forced to stop.
In addition, the chapter dealing with public transport operators now includes a section that speaks specifically to the e-hailing sector.
It requires drivers of e-hailing vehicles operating within the City’s jurisdiction to clearly display a tag identifying the vehicle as such, along with a valid operating license.
“Currently, the City’s Traffic Officers are allowed to impound public transport vehicles where the driver does not have an operating license or is operating in contravention of their operating license,” said Nqavashe.
“The draft amendments to the traffic by-law make provision for the impoundment of private vehicles under certain circumstances.”
Nqavashe added that the city’s annual statistics show that there is no change in behaviour relating to very serious transgressions like illegal street racing and driving under the influence.
“The Portfolio Committee therefore devised the amendments, in consultation with various other parties, in a bid to force road users who insist on breaking the rules of the road with reckless abandon to change their behaviour, and make our roads safer for all,” said Nqavashe.