As many as 47% respondents participating in a road safety survey in Delhi admitted to regularly making or receiving calls while driving. But police data show that the number of prosecutions for the traffic rule violation remained dismally low.Even though the daily challans issued for using the mobile phone while driving rose this year to nearly 48 (till October 31), it is a tiny dot compared to the overall 17,700 daily prosecutions. In the last five years, less than 10 drivers were penalised daily for using phones while driving in Delhi. During the same period, an average of 1,600 challans were issued daily to two-wheeler owners for not wearing helmets.
Curbing the use of mobile phones while driving has not been a priority for the traffic police that cites several ‘practical problems’ in cracking down on such violators, in a city where the total number of vehicles has crossed the 10-million mark. Chief of Delhi Traffic Police Dependra Pathak acknowledged that it was a serious problem. “Use of mobile phones while driving greatly compromises safety and a large number of accidents take place because of it,” he said. Pathak said they have been focussing on curbing the menace, which is evident from the increasing number of challans issued for the violation.
Out on the roads, traffic policemen say they are unable to do much as unlike a helmet violation or red light jumping which can be seen from far, detecting mobile use violation is difficult and often goes unnoticed until the driver zooms past them. “If a driver is distracted, he indulges in dangerous driving. So, whether a hands-free system is being used or an earphone is plugged in, it amounts to an offence,” Pathak said.
But traffic policemen say this is even more difficult to implement. “If we stop a driver on this suspicion, he simply says he was singing. It gets embarrassing for us,” says a policeman. Incidentally, traffic policemen do not penalise drivers for singing while driving.
The menace continues despite the first-time offence attracting a fine of Rs 1,000 and repeat violation Rs 2,000, a penalty much higher than most other traffic offences. In addition to that, motorists lose their driving licence for three months.