Taking a Close Call

We require Road Heroes to educate the public on the hazards of using mobile devices while on the road.

It’s a small, simple rule — but one that needs to be judiciously implemented and followed to keep our roads safe. We’re talking about restricting the use of mobile phones among drivers, as talking or even a glance at its screen to read or type messages can be distracting enough to increase the accident risk.

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It is for this reason that Hero MotoCorp’s flagship platform for its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative, Hero We Care, is now striving to create awareness about the importance of avoiding the use of cell phones while driving. Action needs to be taken on this front, especially since the number of Indian mobile phone users has grown exponentially over the last few years, along with the number of accidents related to this device.

But first, let’s talk about how, from a market share of 19% in 2014, reports state that India saw a jump to 98% in 2022 in the number of mobile phones manufactured in the country. With this, the country has become the second-largest smartphone market globally.

While this may be a reason to rejoice for techies, our mammoth smartphone market has also created a world of ‘nomophobics,’ that is, people who are not just addicted to their smartphones but also get anxious just at the thought of spending even a few minutes without it.

“It is for addicts like them that strict laws and greater understanding about the correct use of the cell phone are required — that while it’s fine to use it when you’re not moving, its use must be a complete no-no when on the road,” says Shivendra Kapoor, a financial consultant. “Just yesterday, I saw a young girl escape being hit by a moving car. Although anyone would have blamed the driver, here it was clearly the girl’s fault as she was too busy chatting on her mobile and suddenly decided to cross the road, oblivious to oncoming traffic. Thankfully, the driver was alert and pressed the brakes in time. However, what if he too had been busy on his mobile? His reaction time could have been a little delayed, leading to serious consequences,” Kapoor adds.

A study conducted by the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IITB), states that using mobile phones while behind the wheel can be distracting enough to affect a person’s capacity to handle hazardous situations on the road. This is already leading to a rising number of road mishaps in the country. Corroborating this, a report by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), ‘Road Accidents in India – 2021’, states that there were as many as 1,997 road accidents because of the use of mobile phones while driving. Of these, as many as 1,040 people lost their lives.

“It is imperative to keep an eye on errant drivers through CCTVs. They should then be given lessons on the havoc the use of mobiles while driving can create in a person’s life,” asserts Seema Singh, whose sister suffered major injuries in a road accident after being hit by a car three years ago. “The reason for this was that the driver — a rich brat — was too busy chatting on his mobile to spot Smriti, then 21, as she was crossing the road. He was so distracted that he didn’t even see that the traffic signal was showing red for him. If our laws had been really strict, I doubt if he would have had the nerve to break them,” she says. And now, as Singh says, while the “culprit — that’s what he is for us — must be carrying on happily leading a guilt-free life, my sister’s world has been turned upside down. After being bedridden for almost six months, she now walks with a discernible limp — something she’s unable to come to terms with.”

While traveling to Gurgaon and back almost daily, Vishal Behl often spots people not just talking but even reading messages and texting while driving. “Don’t they realize that they could damage someone’s car, or worse, be putting someone else’s life at risk? Quick glances at their phone screens may seem harmless, but even a momentary lapse of attention can have severe consequences,” he says.

Awareness campaigns on how mobile phones pose a significant threat to road safety are needed on a war footing, according to Behl. “Since using the phone is almost like an OCD for most, campaigns, advertisements, and short reels must be created to educate youngsters on how its use can compromise road safety,” he asserts. “We need to build up an active army of Road Heroes who can say ‘no’ to the use of smartphones when on the road and work towards spreading the word.”

Disclaimer: This article has been produced on behalf of the brand by HT Brand Studio.

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