Almost 10,000 cellphones confiscated

Cape Town traffic police are closing in on their ten thousandth cellphone confiscation since they began confiscating cellphones in 2012. This isn’t a random thing though. No, they only take the cellphones off people who are using them while driving. You know, the ones who are clearly in contravention of Road Traffic Ordinance Regulation 308A, which prohibits a driver from holding a mobile phone or communication device in one or both hands or with any other part of their body while driving?

Those ones.

“The numbers are staggering and an indication that many motorists still refuse to acknowledge the dangers of using cellular phones while driving. It is astonishing to consider that people will very easily persecute drunk drivers for reckless behaviour, but cannot see the recklessness in fiddling with a cellphone while navigating through traffic,” said mayoral committee member for Safety and Security, JP Smith.

Look, this is Good. News. but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg, as I noted here.

And it seems that, as always, South Africa is high on the list of cellphone naughtiness while at the wheel – as you would expect given the impunity with which we treat traffic and/or any other laws. But it’s not just here that it’s a problem. In the US, the major cellphone companies have joined forces to produce the campaign, and they’ve released some really good mini-documentaries to get with it:

It would be great if MTN, Vodacom et al. (Al being the only guy who’s still on Cell C) could team up and do something to try and reduce cellphone use while driving.
Although I think we’re still some distance from that tipping point whereby it becomes socially unacceptable to use your phone while at the wheel, I do think that people need something to remind them what tossers they are being, when in every single case – it can wait.

UPDATE: What happens to the over 6000 confiscated phones which haven’t been reclaimed? See this EWN report.

On lawlessness…

Timothy left this comment on the blog today:

South Africans are LAWLESS. Every day my jaw drops at, in particular, our driving. No indicating, hogging the fast lane, parking anywhere, no servicing and billowing smoke out the back etc etc.
I often wonder what goes on (or doesn’t) in these people’s minds. Is it deliberate, or pure ignorance, or a heady mix?

And I wrote this some time ago:

the laws are there, but the fact that they’re just not enforced means that the driving public feel that they don’t have to obey them.

These facts have been proven further to me on the roads over the last few days.

Firstly, an unsecured toddler on the back seat of a Mazda 323. No, this isn’t a good thing, but sadly it’s something we’re well used to here in SA. So picture my delight when a traffic police car pulls out behind said Mazda. And then picture my disgust when said traffic police officer interacted with the Mazda, not by stopping it and fining the driver to high heaven, but by waving to the child through the back windscreen.

And then today, after a massive road smash on the M5 this evening – one car on its roof on the central reservation – tow trucks, fire engines, ambulances everywhere – and the traffic police, standing by, but not actually doing anything because right then, it was all about the other emergency services doing their thing. Fair enough.

All of which meant that the traffic police officer had plenty of time to chat the incident with the cyclist who had pulled over. I hope it all worked out ok. And it was kind of weird to see a traffic officer and a cyclist discussing… hey… hang on a second. Cyclists aren’t allowed to cycle on the M5 – where were the traffic officers while this conversation was going… hey… hang on a second – they were talking with him.

I don’t think that I need to add much of a conclusion here. Even the more intellectually-challenged of my readers can see where I’m going with this. When even the police don’t give a damn, we have a problem.

Frankly, I’m rather depressed by the whole thing.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, in France

Whose Fault Is It Anyway?

Part – indeed much – of my journey home from work features the M5 and much of that journey is usually rather slow. It gives me a chance to have a look around at the fetid industrial heartland of Cape Town, before I head down into the leafier suburbs further south.

As I’ve mentioned once or twice before, Cape Town (and South African) drivers in general seem incapable of obeying the rules of the road, but two incidents that I’ve spotted over the past couple of days have left me intrigued from a legal point of view.

The first involved a vehicle from the Provincial Motor Transport fleet. The guy driving it was talking on his cellphone and so he wasn’t paying a huge amount of attention to his driving. Thus, he veered into the yellow lane at the side of the freeway, where he almost hit a cyclist. Whose fault would that have been? You might think that it’s a bit of a no-brainer: driver on cellphone, not paying attention, veers, hits cyclist. Blame driver.
But of course, the cyclist shouldn’t have been there anyway, since they aren’t permitted to be on freeways (or to ride 2 abreast or to go through red lights or to go the wrong way down one way streets or do all the other illegal things that cyclists do). So maybe the driver could have argued that the it should have been safe for him to veer to the left without fear of squashing anyone.

The second is more clear cut. A van, delivering gas (gas go boom boom if van crashes), travelling in the right hand lane, spots a phat traffic jam ahead and decides he wants nothing to do with it. Helpfully, there’s a junction right there, so he can nip off the freeway and avoid the delay. There are just two things stopping him from carrying out this manoeuvre: there’s a solid white line and a lane of traffic to… no… wait… there’s apparently nothing stopping him from carrying out this manoeuvre as he lurches violently to the left and almost hits a Renault Scenic. Whose fault would that have been? Well, his, obviously.
Except for the fact that the woman driving said Scenic could have done a whole lot more to avoid the potential accident if she hadn’t been smoking a fag with one hand, doing her make-up with the other and being on the phone with the third. Her value as a witness would have been compromised by her extensive head injuries suffered in the accident as she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.
But then the gas go boom boom would have killed us all anyway.

I spot a lot, but then, it’s a long, slow journey and there’s a lot to spot. But then I followed a Ghost Squad (unmarked traffic police) car down the M5 the other evening and was amazed at what he apparently didn’t spot. In the 3.5kms that I was right behind him, I counted 27 different offences by various motorists. No seatbelts, unrestrained kids, drivers using cellphones, crossing solid white lines, fag butts out of windows, a couple of cyclists etc etc.

He apparently saw nothing. Neither did the Ghost Squad motorbike that passed us both by Kromboom Road.

With law enforcement like that, it’s no wonder that drivers believe that they can break the law with impunity, and it’s no wonder that South Africa’s road death statistics are so horrific.