Road Legislation and using your phone when driving

Distracted driving has become a major cause of road crashes. On the Arrive Alive website, we share information on safe driving and warn against a variety of distractions.

View: Avoiding Distractions while Driving

The distraction which has in recent years increased significantly is the distraction caused by cellular phones. This distraction is not merely the act of talking on the cellular phone but all other activities that can be performed on the cellular phone/ smartphone. On our cellular phones we are now able to:

  • Make and receive calls
     
  • Send & receive text messages
     
  • Send  & receive audio &video messages
     
  • Browse the internet
     
  • Participate in conversations on social media platforms such as Facebook, Whatsapp, WeChat, MiXit, Twitter etc.

We often find that when pulled over by a traffic cop the motorist will claim that “he/she was not talking” on the phone or that “the vehicle was not moving”. It is important that we address some of these misperceptions about the law and using cellular phones in our vehicles.

What is the Law on Cellphones/ Smartphones while Driving?

NO driver is permitted to use a hand-held communication device while driving. This includes a cell phone, microphone or other communication devices, per the South African National Road Traffic Act.

Summary:

  • You may use such a device ONLY IF it is NOT being held in your hand or with any other part of your body (e.g. it may NOT be gripped under your chin either).
     
  • You may also not use the cellular phone at traffic lights even when the vehicle is not moving – if the engine is running you are considered to be driving.
     
  • Transgressing the Rules of the Road includes taking photos, browsing the internet and participation on social media platforms when driving.
     
  • Officials are NO LONGER exempted. They used to be in the past (if it was in the course of executing their official duties), but that exemption was removed from the Regulations a few years ago. So don’t let any traffic officer or metro police official try to tell you otherwise.

The wording of the official Regulations

Regulation 308A: Prohibition on use of communication device while driving

(1) No person shall drive a vehicle on a public road—

(a) while holding a cellular or mobile telephone or any other communication device in one or both hands or with any other part of the body;

(b) while using or operating a cellular or mobile telephone or other communication device unless such a cellular or mobile telephone or other communication device 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, and is so used, to enable such driver to use or operate such telephone or communication device without holding it in the manner contemplated in paragraph (a), and remains so affixed while being used or operated.

(2) . . . . . .

[Sub-r. (2) deleted by r. 67, GNR.1341 w.e.f. 25 September 2003.]

(3) For the purposes of this regulation—

(a) the word “headgear” includes for the purposes of this regulation a device which specially designed or adapted to allow the driver to use a cellular or mobile telephone or other communication devices in such a manner that he or she does not hold it in one or both hands or with any other part of the body, and which is connected to the cellular or mobile telephone or other communication device concerned, directly or indirectly, while being fitted to or attached to one or both ears of the driver; and

(b) the phrases “cellular or mobile telephone or any other communication device” and “cellular or mobile telephone or other communication devices”, excludes land mobile radio transmission and reception equipment operating in the frequency band 2 megahertz to 500 megahertz that is affixed to the vehicle or is part of the fixture in the vehicle.

[Sub-r. (3) substituted by r. 3, GNR.761 w.e.f. 31 July 2000. Para. (b) substituted by r. 2, GNR.941 w.e.f. 22 September 2000.]

 

What are the Rules of the Road on Television Receivers and other visual display units inside vehicles?

This usually applies to drivers installing display units for passengers to screen movies or other promotional footage via DVD and other mediums to keep passengers occupied during the travels.

Regulation 308B: Prohibition on use of television receivers and visual display units in motor vehicles

(1) No person may operate on a public road a motor vehicle that has a television receiver or visual display unit in or on the vehicle operated while the vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked if any part or portion of the image on the screen—

(a) is visible to the driver from the normal driving position; or

(b) is likely to distract the driver or other road users;

(2) The provisions of sub-regulation (1) do not apply to the driver if:

(a) driving a bus and the visual display unit is, or displays, a destination sign or other bus sign;

(b) the visual display unit is, or is part of, a driver’s navigational or intelligent driving aid; or

(c) driving a double deck bus having a TV monitor.

[R. 308B inserted by r. 24, GNR.9089 w.e.f. 27 May 2009.]

Conclusion:

We need to recognise that everything that takes our focus and attention away from the roads can be regarded as a Driver Distraction. It includes making us take both our hands off the steering wheel and occupying our attention –taking it away from the road, other road users and traffic conditions.

This is not only a conversation on a cellular phone, but also conversations and heated arguments with other passengers as well as activities such as fiddling with the car radio, eating, drinking, applying make-up etc.

We would like to urge both drivers and passengers to remain focused - allowing the driver the best time, space and focus for a swift and effective response to emergencies on the road!

Also view:

Texting and Distracted Driving

Cellular Technology and Road Safety

Hands-Free Distracted Driving and Road 

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