Monday, September 07, 2009

Lose your licence for talking on your cellphone

If you are caught in a traffic jam or itching to talk to a friend, Well, don’t. Starting today, calling, sending a text message or even listening to music through earphones while in the driver’s seat will cost you your driver’s licence – forever! It doesn’t matter if your vehicle is stationary at a traffic signal, you’re still culpable. What’s more, you cannot use your hands-free, play games, take photos or shoot videos on your phone either. A circular sent out by State Transport Commissioner Deepak Kapoor to all 45 divisions of the Regional Transport Offices (RTO) and other transport offices in the State, including the Mumbai Traffic police, says that those caught using mobile phones while driving will stand to forfeit their licence for good. Kapoor said that drivers in a stationary vehicle in a traffic jam or at a traffic signal also come under the rule.
He added, “For the first time such harsh punishment has been decided upon for those using mobile phones while driving. The circular has already been dispatched to all concerned departments and we have clearly laid down the rule that once the driver sits in the car, he cannot touch his mobile phone until he leaves the driver’s seat. If he flouts the rule, he will be liable for the punishment decided upon.” However, Kapoor clarified, this rule only applies to the driver and not to other occupants of the vehicle. The move came following a letter sent by the Central Government to the transport commissioner indicating that use of mobile phones while driving motor vehicles carried a potential risk of accidents and had been proved to distract the driver, increasing the probability of accidents.
According to the letter, the special committee set up to look into the petitions by Rajya Sabha members on the issue, had taken a very serious note of the fact that use of mobile phones in motor vehicles was on the rise, leading to accidents.
Kapoor said, “Acting on the letter, we recommended that the use of mobile phones while driving be banned in any form and in any manner. We have now directed the officers to disqualify a driver under Rule 21 of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989, as per the procedure laid down in Section 19 of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988’ (see ‘Road Rules’).”
Kapoor added that implementation of the punishment would depend on the traffic police officer. “If the driver hangs up before the officer reaches him, he may only have his licence suspended for three months. But if the driver is using the phone when the officer nabs him, he will lose his licence forever,” Kapoor said. He said he would review the cases every month.

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