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To stop distracted driving, Cape Town police take motorists' phones

Motorists caught operating a mobile phone while driving will lose their phone for 24 hours.


When fines and warnings don't work, police may want to consider another tactic to stop distracted driving: confiscate mobile devices.

Thanks to a new law in Cape Town, South Africa, police have started confiscating mobile phones of motorists caught talking or texting while driving, reports the Cape Times. It's legal for motorists to use hands-free devices to operate mobile phones, but using handheld phones behind the wheel can result in a 500 Rand ($60) fine, or up to three years in jail, or both. However, officials say they give out 8,000 fines each month, and haven't seen any reduction in mobile phone scofflaws.

By taking away the phone, police should be able to send a more serious message.

When caught using a mobile phone while driving, Cape Town police lock the phone in a sealed box, issue the driver a serial number, and impound the phone at the police station. Drivers can pick up their devices from the police station after 24 hours by showing the serial number and identification. However, if a phone is confiscated on a Friday, motorists will have to wait until Monday to retrieve their property, according to the Cape Times, because traffic offices are closed during the weekend.

The saving grace is that motorists are given the opportunity to remove their SIM and memory card, which will enable them to make and receive phone calls -- as long as they can find another mobile phone.

Distracted driving is considered as dangerous as drunk driving, and many states in the U.S. impound cars -- and for a much longer time -- to dissuade people from driving while intoxicated. With federal pressures mounting for states and auto manufacturers to implement laws and technology to prevent the practice, it would make more sense to cut the problem off at the source: the mobile phone.

The first day the law went into effect in South Africa, police seized 16 mobile phones. With many people forgoing landlines and opting only for mobile phones, the loss of a smartphone could crimp their ability to communicate with important contacts or impede their job. Having a backup device would seem like an obvious workaround, although with the price of some smartphones these days, it's probably just cheaper to use a headset.

(Via: Cape Times)