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Don't pick up the call!

Rohini Kejriwal, Aug 30, 2013, DHNS : 21:06 IST

Distracted drivers

Huge risk:  People talking on the phone while driving or riding is a common sight in the City.
It’s a pity how people wait to encounter serious mishaps to learn simple lessons in life. Of these, the act of talking on the phone while riding or driving seems to
top the list.

As the fatalities due to this avoidable habit continue to rise in the City, so do the sightings of distracted drivers finishing their conversations instead of keeping their eyes on the road. Even with two-wheelers, it is common to see a rider with his head tilted to one side, a cellphone tucked under his ear.

In the past few months, there have been many incidents which have ended in serious injuries and sometimes death.

The authorities agree that it is a punishable offence, where the fine can go up to Rs 1,000. Yet they admit that there is no way to link the increasing numbers of road
accidents to this cause specifically, unlike drunk driving, where medical tests can prove whether a driver was intoxicated.

“There is no category for this offence specifically to suggest that it is this factor leading to accidents. But it is an offence under Section 184 of the Motor Vehicles Act because it is a dangerous distraction that can harm not only the one speaking on the phone but other road users too. It is avoidable under all circumstances,” says B Dayanand, additional commissioner of police (traffic and security) .

He adds, “Workshops are conducted for BMTC drivers where they are told to avoid this. But it’s a civic responsibility that should ideally just be there as common sense.”
He recalls a recent case under this offence — “There was a two-wheeler rider on Mysore Road who was talking on the phone.

He did not pay attention to the road, hit another vehicle and died on the spot. When the police got there and picked up the phone, the person on the other line was still in conversation and asking what had happened. It’s too dangerous a distraction,”
he asserts.

Despite the penal provision for talking on the phone, it hasn’t really worked as a
deterrent. Stating the numbers involved, Dayanand says that in 2012, 1,26,790 cases were booked. This year, till July, 43,572 cases have been booked.But it usually takes an accident for people to learn to be attentive.

“I rammed my car into the circle at Lalbagh near the Double Road gate,” recalls Abhishek K, who has been at the receiving end during such an accident.

“I was on the phone and tried turning around the circle but smashed the side
of my car into it. There were no injuries but the car was damaged. I’m more careful now and concentrate on driving. I also try and use hands-free if I need to take a call,”
he says.

According to most, self-discipline is the only way around the problem.
“Parents need to advice their kids to avoid using mobile phones while driving. A phone is to be used to stay in touch with people, not to lose one’s life.

Talking and driving is even more dangerous than drinking and driving,” says Anusha Shenoy, a third-year BCom student at Seshadripuram Institute of Commerce and
Management.

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