Comment on traffic by-law

According to the draft by-law, a traffic officer can impound your vehicle if the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Picture:David Ritchie

Traffic officers will have new powers to confiscate your car if the City’s proposed changes to a by-law go through.

The public has until the end of the month to comment on the draft amendments to the Traffic By-law.

The by-law was first introduced in 2011, to provide for the regulation of public transport vehicles and traffic within the City’s jurisdiction and should the by-law be passed, traffic officers will have the power to confiscate your car and lane sharing for motorbike riders will be illegal.

A key aspect of the original by-law was the impounding of cellphones of motorists caught using the devices while driving. Using a cellphone while driving is illegal according to national legislation which can lead to a fine.

“This was the big talking point when the by-law was first introduced, but it was, and remains, part of the City’s efforts to reduce distracted driving and improve road safety,” said the chairperson of the City’s safety and security portfolio committee, Mzwakhe Nqavashe.

But under the new by-law, private vehicle owners could lose a lot more than their cellphones.

“Currently, the City’s traffic officers are allowed to impound public-transport vehicles where the driver does not have an operating licence or is operating in contravention of their operating licence.

“The draft amendments to the Traffic By-law make provision for the impoundment of private vehicles under certain circumstances,” said Mr Nqavashe.

According to the draft by-law, a traffic officer can impound your vehicle if:

* It was involved in reckless or negligent driving or illegal street racing.

* It is unlicensed or unregistered and the licence disc has been expired for more than 90 days.

* It is not fitted with licence plates.

* It is damaged or is in a state of disrepair.

* It is a taxi flouting the rules of its operating licence or is off its approved route.

* It has been abandoned and left in the same place in an urban area for longer than seven days or is causing a danger or obstruction to other traffic.

* The driver is unlicensed or cannot present their licence.

* The driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

* The driver did not stop when signalled to do so by an authorised official.

Fish Hoek resident Leigh Palmer said the by-law appeared to give a traffic officer the authority to impound a vehicle based solely on their opinion of whether it was roadworthy or not.

“Opinions vary. Surely there is a standard framework/procedure to determine when a vehicle is not roadworthy,” he said.

Other aspects of the by-law he felt were sound and, in some cases, long overdue.

Regulations for commercial and public transport vehicles should be more stringent, he said.

“I would also like to see it made a law that every vehicle on the road carry insurance, and in the case of commercial vehicles, an annual roadworthy test be carried out in order for a license to be issued.”

The Fish Hoek Valley Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (FHVRRA) in its objection to the draft asks if there is a clear procedure for determining when a driver is incapable of driving. The association also wants to know what “safe disposal” of a vehicle includes.

Meanwhile, bikers claim the draft by-law will stop them lane splitting – riding between slow-moving or stopped traffic.

Bruce Silson, president of the Expats Motorcycle Club, said lane-splitting eased congestion and was safer for bikers than stopping behind a stationary vehicle.

But mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith denies the amended by-law will give lane-splitting the chop.

“The provision in the by-law is an exact duplicate of what the national legislation says and the national legislation does not ban motorcycles from moving between vehicles when traffic is slow moving,” he told the Cape Argus.

The amended draft by-law document is available at

The public participation process ends on Thursday October 31, and the public can make submissions to or view the draft by-law at their local library or sub-council office. Written submissions can be delivered to the nearest sub-council office. – Additional reporting by Yolande du Preez.