The state transport department is cracking down on those who use their cellphones while driving. This follows a letter from the Centre directing it to do so.
A circular ordering such a drive has been sent to all Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) and the Mumbai traffic police.
According to the letter, a special committee of Rajya Sabha members favours a ban on the use of cellphones while driving.
RTO officers were directed to “disqualify” offending drivers under Rule 21 of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules (1989).
What this means is that if the driver disconnects the phone before the officer reaches him, he will 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 permanently.
The law also prohibits text messaging, use of Bluetooth technology to transfer data, playing games, listening to music and taking photographs on the cellphone while driving.
Transport Commissioner Deepak Kapoor said: “The number of accidents in Maharashtra is among the highest in India. One of the major reasons, apart from speeding, is cellphone use while driving.”
In 2008, Mumbai registered 29,780 road accidents — 39 per cent of Maharashtra’s 75,520.
However, the Mumbai police haven’t received the circular yet. Sanjay Barve, joint commissioner of police, traffic, said: “We are already penalising offending drivers.” The circular is also being seen as a way to increase the transport department’s revenue. An RTO officer said the target has been set at nearly Rs 30 lakh per month.