Since 1997
Cell Phones While Driving
by DAN Legal Team on March 2nd, 2016

One of the most popular ways of keeping contact with your dive buddies whilst on route to a diving destination is via text message, whatsapp or simply by phoning them. Beware that current legislation governs the use of using mobile phones while driving strictly. 
No person shall drive a vehicle on a public road while:
  • holding a cellular or mobile telephone or any other communication device (which includes a two way radio) in one or both hands, or with any other part of the body, or
  • 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 explained above, and remains
  • affixed while being used or operated.Similar words than those used in the National Road Traffic Act, 1996 are employed to clarify the confusing wording of the legislation.
For the purposes of this legislation— the word “headgear” includes, (for the purposes hereof)
  • a device which specially designed or adapted to allow the driver to use a cellular or mobile telephone or other communication device 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
The phrases “cellular or mobile telephone or any other communication device” and “cellular or mobile telephone or other communication device” excludes land mobile radio transmission and reception equipment operating in the frequency band 2 megahertz to 500 megahertz (so normal two way radios such as the VHF frequency used by boats and 29 MHZ, also used by boats are meant here) that is affixed to the vehicle or is part of the fixture in the vehicle.

In everyday English, this simply means that you may not use a cellular telephone to text, WhatsApp, BBM, or phone, unless you have a hands free car kit fitted permanent or semi-permanent and activated, thus paired, to your cell phone. You may also make use of external speakers, such as a “walk and talk” device.  Our interpretation of the walk and talk device is rather not to rely on such a device as you will still have to hold the communications device in one or both hands whilst dialling. Not only are you liable to a fine if you do so, but this can be regarded as contributing towards negligent driving.

In the interests of safety, rather refrain from using your phone while you drive. If you have to use it, either pull off the road safely – and legally! Alternatively, make use of a fully installed hands free car kit.

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

However, 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 is visible to the driver from the normal driving position or is likely to distract the driver or other road users.

These provisions do not apply when driving a bus and the visual display unit is, or displays, a destination sign or other bus sign, or the visual display unit is, or is part of, a driver’s navigational or intelligent driving aid or driving a double deck bus having a TV monitor.
In summary thus, you may look, and off course accept the guidance of your GPS, but ensure to plot your destination prior to pulling off, or make your changes only when you are at a safe spot to do so, keeping in mind driver safety.  It is also important to note that stopping on a freeway is a road traffic offence, unless you have an emergency or you are ordered to top by a traffic- or police official. Even in the latter case, stop where it is safe.

Do you remember the days when you were learning to drive? Do you remember the days when you were learning to qualify for your diving certification? Anxious moments, weren’t they? Some moments were very anxious to me, as I recall. Well, true to human nature, once we are versed in a skill or trade, we relax. It gets easier as we practice more. In fact when we go on holiday, we are expected to “relax”.

Unfortunately, a large proportion of diving accidents indicate human error as cause. In short – complacency: we tend to become more relaxed and, ultimately, negligent. Complacency erodes due diligence, and that – in turn – becomes human error.

Accidents can happen at any time. However the higher the risk of the activity we are engaged in, the more likely they are and the more dire the consequences. Consider diving and driving, for instance: Both are high risk activities, but in time we get overly confident. Training is not the problem. If it was, we would have only novice drivers and divers involved in incidents. The more comfortable we get, the less vigilant we become. Recent incidents in South Africa and internationally, according to our law libraries, increasingly reference lack of due diligence amongst divers (and drivers).

Divers are strongly urged not to fall into the trap of complacency. You have been taught well. PLAN YOUR DIVES! Moreover, stick to the dive plans. Do your pre-dive checks properly.
Dive operators and dive leaders need to realise that the conduct of the leading teams are now under increasing scrutiny of our courts. Individuals lacking the test of due diligence have been chastised by our courts by name. Not only have their reputations been tarnished, but they have been required of to pay astronomical amounts of compensation.

DAN advises all dive businesses and operators to:
  • Take due care of your dive operation; it is simply not worth taking chances.
  • Consider joining DAN’s Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA) programme as a business partner; be pro- active in mitigating your risk.

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Gerry - September 5th, 2016 at 3:56 AM
Great reminder to pay attention to rules always.
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