Drive safe, call later

Chennai has the second largest number of drivers who have had accidents or near-misses due to distracted driving, reveals a study. CE finds out the risk factors involved

Published: 09th May 2017 10:05 PM  |   Last Updated: 10th May 2017 04:29 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: On a busy, traffic-packed Monday evening, Rajthilak received an ‘urgent work related call’, and decided to place the phone between his helmet and ear to ‘have a quick chat’. But little did he know he was going to be hospitalised — just because of that one call. “I attended the call like I always do. The whole road was packed and I didn’t feel like parking before answering the call…but I didn’t notice the red signal and jumped it. A speeding car hit me and I was hospitalised for two weeks with several injuries,” recalls Raj.

This is just one of several road crashes that occur in the city regularly. In a first-of-its-kind study on ‘safety and mobility’, Vodafone India and Save LIFE Foundation released a report titled, ‘Distracted Driving: A study on Mobile Phone Usage, Pattern and Behavior’, that revealed several disturbing driving patterns.
In 2015, Chennai had 7,328 road crashes and 886 crash deaths (National Crime Records Bureau). These numbers reflect a staggering increase in cases of ‘distracted driving’, most of which is because of mobile phones usage — one of the primary risk factors along with several others like eating while driving, applying make-up, using the radio, talking to the pillion rider, simultaneously watching movie or listening to loud music while driving and more.

NS Srinivasan, chairman, Transport Advisory Forum, says, “A driver’s attention should always be on the road. If he/she driver is not careful enough, accidents can happen. People need to follow the rules and be more cooperative,” he says.
The use of mobile phones while driving causes four types of mutually non-exclusive distractions — visual, auditory, cognitive and manual/physical. Manual distractions implies the driver has taken his/her hands off the steering wheel, visual distractions cause drivers to look away from the road, cognitive ones induce the driver to think about something other than driving and auditory distractions mask sounds that are crucial for the driver.

Talking about the cognitive distraction, Srinivasan shares, “1.5 seconds is the reaction time for most human beings. Within that time, if we can perceive and take action, we can avoid accidents. But when you’re distracted, this isn’t possible. Most accidents are ‘near misses’ because people are wither talking on cell phones and/or listening to music.”

The report states that among different cities, the number of respondents who reported to have had an accident or a near-miss when using mobile phones while driving is highest in Bengaluru (62%), followed by Chennai (32%). Radhakrishnan, coordinator and organiser at Thozhan, an NGO, which promotes road safety, says that accidents happen because people are ignorant. “Everyone knows that using a phone while driving is an offence. But they still they do it because they think it’s not dangerous,” he rues.
The report also shows that 84% of Chennai drivers think that attending calls while driving isn’t dangerous. “Mobile phones and using head phones are extremely dangerous. But when we try to make people understand this during our campaigns, they either mock at us or give us
silly reasons!”

As CE travelled to some of the highly ‘accident prone’ areas, we saw a car driver almost hit a two-wheeler in Adyar. The traffic police officer shares, “The car driver was busy using his ‘Bluetooth enabled phone’ that was synced with the car while driving. When we pointed it out he gave excuses…! How can we enforce laws when drivers don’t feel responsible!” he fumes.

The first-offence penalty for using mobile phones while
driving is up to `100, second offence up to`300, gradually resulting in revoking the licence. However, there are many who make a duplicate license in no time; so the ban is futile.


  • Don’t fiddle with the radio, phone, apply make-up or eat food while driving. These are distractions
  • Do not attend phone calls or manually type text in your phone while driving
  • Don’t drink & drive
  • Don’t use headphones while driving a two wheeler or play your car stereo loudly
  • Don’t tailgate other vehicles, flash your headlights, beep your horn, or make rude hand gestures
  • Don’t block your vision -- avoid putting decals on your windows or hanging dangling objects from your rear-view mirror
  • Don’t engage in road rag


  •  Maintain a safe distance from other vehicles
  •  Stop to wash your face or for a quick coffee break before you resume driving in case of drowsiness
  •  Avoid medication that causes drowsiness before driving
  •  Make room for other vehicles and leave way for pedestrians
  •  Always wear your seat belt. In case of a two wheeler, make sure you wear a good quality helmet
  •  Do a routine maintenance of your vehicle
  •  If you need to make a call/attend one, pull over and stop the vehicle first first
  •  Follow speed limits and Never run signals
  • Plan your route in advance

India Matters


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