They know, yet they do it

More than half the drivers in India's cities use their mobile phones to initiate or answer calls while driving although almost all of them know the dangers of doing that, an eight-city survey has suggested.

By G.S. Mudur
  • Published 29.04.17
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New Delhi, April 28: More than half the drivers in India's cities use their mobile phones to initiate or answer calls while driving although almost all of them know the dangers of doing that, an eight-city survey has suggested.

Some 94 per cent of the drivers sampled in the survey, conducted by the non-government SaveLife Foundation, admitted that using a mobile phone while driving was dangerous. But 52 per cent nevertheless used their phones while at the wheel.

Bangalore had the highest proportion of respondents (83 per cent) who acknowledged using mobile phones while driving, followed by Calcutta (70 per cent) and Mumbai (65 per cent). Jaipur had the lowest proportion of such errant drivers. (See chart)

According to the survey, whose results were released today, some 51 per cent of four-wheeler drivers said they would only receive a call and never initiate one, compared with 42 per cent of auto-rickshaw drivers. Three per cent of car drivers and two per cent of two-wheeler drivers said they "always" - during every journey - initiated calls while driving.

"We've for the first time tried to quantify the contribution of mobile phones to distracted driving, using samples of drivers from multiple cities," said Saji Cherian, director of operations with SaveLife Foundation, which is engaged in road safety and emergency response issues.

He said there had been no previous "data on distracted driving... even though it is known that it contributes significantly to road accidents".

The survey, relying on responses from 1,749 drivers of two-wheelers, cars, trucks and auto-rickshaws, has also found that nearly 94 per cent truck drivers and 67 per cent four-wheeler drivers send mobile text messages and WhatsApp messages if police officers are not within sight.

A 2015 report by the transport research wing of the Union road transport and highways ministry had noted that 2,270 people had been killed in 8,359 crashes attributed to "driver's inattentiveness".

Cherian, however, said that these crashes had not been sorted to determine what contributed to the inattentiveness.

Other countries are trying to capture such data. The US government's transport and highway safety administration has, for instance, documented that among the 2,955 fatal crashes on American roadways in 2014 that involved driver distraction, 385 (13 per cent) involved the use of cellphones as the distraction.

Transport specialists say that sample surveys may underestimate or overestimate the reality at different locations and across different sets of drivers.

A study by a transport research centre in Thiruvananthapuram last year, for instance, had given a much higher figure for mobile use among drivers: 74 per cent.

It also said, on the basis of a sample of 1,203 drivers from five Kerala districts, that 55 per cent of drivers used mirrors for non-driving purposes and 50 per cent ate or drank at the wheel.