Medical fraternity here has welcomed the State Government’s ban on use of cell phone by drivers of State Express Transport Corporations while on duty in order to prevent accidents with a sense of relief. The Government’s warning that stringent action would be taken against violators must be strictly enforced, they insist, equating cell phone driving with drunken driving.

The dangers of using cell phone while driving are proven. Having a cell phone pressed to the ear while behind the wheel is equivalent to driving in an inebriated condition, according to a study by University of Utah psychologists. A research done by Carnegie Mellon University scientists suggests that listening to the phone grabs 37 per cent of brain activity associated with driving.

The facts may be known to many. Yet, using cell phone while driving is not uncommon in the city irrespective of the age of the motorists. Due to holding the mobile phone between the shoulders and ears, motorists tend to lose balance while driving along heavy traffic zones. They apparently do it without any qualms as the law is not severe on them. At the most, offenders get away with fines.

What is the impact of the use of cell phone while driving on the brain due to which accidents take place? Why is the use of cell phone while on the move is compared to drunken driving? The safety week observed at the start of the year on the theme: “Life is safe if driving is safe,” was an opportunity for service-minded organisations and individuals to draw the attention of the public and sensitise them to inherent dangers in using cell phone in motion.

M.A. Aleem, Professor and Head, Department of Neurology, K.A.P. Viswanatham Medical College Hospital explains: “Radio frequency waves from the instrument hamper attention and cause memory disturbance. Due to the electromagnetic effect, drivers do not react in time to dangers. Since the coordination of limbs, eye and legs get affected, the task completion becomes impaired."

Accident deaths are caused as much due to cell phone usage as because of drunken driving, said Dr. Aleem, citing the accident cases being referred to hospitals. Due to the disturbance caused to auditory and visual stimuli, the vision also gets affected at the time of cell phone usage while driving.

With the number of vehicles proliferating by the day - according to a recent estimate, the number of vehicles have touched the one crore-mark and of them two-wheelers constitute 90 per cent; they account for an overall of 10 to 11 per cent growth in Tamil Nadu – the responsibility of the motorists is all the more, Dr. Aleem emphasised.

The trend of talking over cell phone is indeed a cause for high concern to educational institutions as it endangers the lives of college-going youths. The concern gets higher still since a section of youths think of cell phone driving as a sign of style statement. “The lives of youths of today being on the fast-lane, their minds are mostly pre-occupied with something or the other. Speaking on mobile phone while driving in such a state of mind only perpetuates their distraction,” said K. Meena, Principal, Shrimati Indira Gandhi College, calling for a self-realisation.

According to the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Traffic and Crime, Rupesh Kumar Meena, the offenders, while committing the illegality of talking on the cell phone while driving, cause danger to self and others. The city police book seven to ten cases of cell phone driving on an average every day. “Law is one aspect of dealing with the offence, and another is creating awareness through education,” Mr. Rupesh said.