Last week, two lives ended tragically on the railway tracks. For 36-year-old K.S. Lokesh, stepping out of his train to attend a call, while the train had halted to wait for a signal, turned fatal.

Oblivious to a train that was approaching from behind, he was speaking on his cellphone when he was run over by the Shimoga-Bangalore Intercity Express at the Honnavalli Railway Station near Tiptur.

On Wednesday last, the Railway police found the body of Anitha Symmes (35) near the Marathahalli railway bridge in the city. It appeared that she had been listening to music while walking on the railway track.

These are not stray cases but are part of a larger systemic problem, the city police said. While there are no ready figures that assess the safety risk posed by cellphone use behind the wheel or on the road, the police find that growing engagement with phones while commuting is a big issue.

So much so, that the State Transport Department even wrote to a leading cellphone firm that, in its rather famous and catchy ad campaign, advocated “walking and talking” on the roads as the solution to better health, while pushing for its brand.

Currently, no specific data exists on what portion of how many of the fatal road accidents every year are due to distractions related to mobile usage. In the past five months, no less than 34,302 were booked for using mobile phones while driving.

While motorists riding with mobile phones stuck between their ear and their helmets, using hands-free while navigating through traffic and even talking while crossing the road is no uncommon sight, a much larger number of people listen to music or FM radio while travelling.

The State is the first in the country to bring out rules banning the use of mobile phones.

The penalty for the first offence is Rs. 100, while for the second offence the penalty will be Rs. 300. The city police have been enforcing the provision laid down in the Karnataka Motor Vehicles Rules that prohibits the use of mobile phones while driving. “We have been booking cases against motorists who are found talking while driving the vehicle. It is difficult to book those using hands-free device,” said Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic and Security) Praveen Sood.

Attention

Using mobile phones while driving and walking distracts attention from the task on hand, says B.C.S. Kumar, who is involved in training motorists for international driving licence.

He demonstrates it with a simple example. “Keep your thumb next to the wrist watch. If you focus on the thumb you cannot see the time properly,” he says. This, Mr. Kumar says, applies while driving or walking on the road.

“It is better to avoid speaking on the mobile phone while on the road. If it is urgent, you can stand by the roadside or park your vehicle on the left side and proceed further after finishing your conversation,” he advises.

Transport Commissioner Bhaskar Rao said that enforcement of the rule against the use of mobile phone will be far more effective once the smart Driving Licence cards come into use. “The micro chip in the card will record the number of offences committed by the driver. This will help police in imposing appropriate fine for mobile phone usage,” he said.

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