Don't Give LaHood Ideas: They'll Take Your Phone Away

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

They do that in South Africa. Use your phone for texting or gabbing, and police in Cape Town will arrest your cell.

Police in unmarked “ghost squad” cars seized 16 phones from motorists who flaunted a new regulation in Cape Town, South Africa, Reuters says. The new rule allows police to confiscate handsets for 24 hours if the law is broken. Harsher sentences await the distracted driver: Driving While Phoning it in can cost up to 500 rand ($61.50) and/or a jail term of up to three years. They don’t call it cell phone for nothing.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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7 of 11 comments
  • Pch101 Pch101 on Jul 06, 2012

    In a given year, South Africa has more murders than the United States, even though it has less than 1/6th of the population. (And the US isn't exactly known for having a low murder rate itself.) Violent crime is pervasive by western standards. It's good to see here that they have their law enforcement priorities straight.

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    • Chuckrs Chuckrs on Jul 06, 2012

      @psarhjinian James Q Wilson's Broken Windows theory suggest that it helps to take care of the little stuff. It worked in NYC, but that may have been a result of higher expectations of and by the police generally. I didn't see a mention of physical road checks, just of spotting people yakking. A hands free set fixes that according to the law. It wasn't that long ago (2007, IIRC) there was an entry at TTAC about the deaths of 5 Fairport, NY teenagers with the strong suspicion that the driver was texting at the time of the crash. I'd like to do as I damn please, but it doesn't seem to work wrt cell phones. Years ago, Kim du Toit blogged about his decision to leave SA. Newspaper day 1 headline - headless bodies found by river. Day 2 headline, heads found by river. Day 3 headline, heads don't match bodies.

  • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Jul 06, 2012

    Err... I think you meant "flouted," not "flaunted."

  • ECurmudgeon ECurmudgeon on Jul 06, 2012

    I'm surprised that there hasn't been more of a push to enforce cellphone driving bans via technology. I can easily see a future FCC rule that requires phones have a built-in mechanism (GPS, accelerometers, reference signals from cell towers, etc.) to detect when in motion beyond walking speed and go into "safety mode". No outbound calls except to 911, no texting, all inbound calls go immediately to voicemail and so forth. Critics will point that this would also affect automobile passengers and people riding on buses and trains. Whether or not that's a bad thing is obviously open to debate...

  • Ronnie Schreiber Ronnie Schreiber on Jul 06, 2012

    As long as the laws apply equally to public employees, including law enforcement officers, I'm fine with regulations on the use of electronic devices while driving.

    • JustinM JustinM on Jul 06, 2012

      It'll never happen, at least not with emergency personnel, and even if it did, they'd do it anyway and cite some sort of necessary purpose, same as the cops who refuse to wait for traffic lights.