While on the move...
Despite the stiff penalty for taking or making calls on cell phones while on the move, one finds many drivers indulging in this practice.
COLLEGE ROAD in Chennai was dense with traffic, tight as a column of infantry soldiers. As a motorcyclist throbbed past, his right palm riding the throttle with greater vigour than his right foot the brake, music from his pocket filled the air. Pompously he guided the aerodynamically designed two-wheeler by the sidewalk and in one fluid motion discarded his stability on the bike. He grabbed the mobile hand set from the pocket and took the call.
When he didn't hear anything, he raised the decibel level of his appeal to drown the traffic's random, discordant orchestra that trailed like the faithful train of a bride's wedding gown. He tried to push his sleek set through the helmet to reach his ear, but couldn't tele-transport it. He realised soon that he was wearing his crash helmet.
Obviously he didn't have a hands-free attachment, some of which look like a simple earphone but with a bulge in the wire to hold the microphone assembly, or the more trend-setting types, similar to sets which grace the heads of engineers at a space mission control centre.
He wriggled his head out of the helmet and sat astride his parked bike, facing the on-coming traffic and waited for the disappointed caller to dial his number again. He peered again and again into the rear view mirror and combed his hair with the fingers. Soon the frustration of the electronic age youth showed, for his face had distorted like a reflection scrambled by the ripples on the surface of a pond.
Despite the stiff penalty for taking or making calls on the cellular phone while on the move, you will find many drivers nestling the handset between the head and the shoulder while the hands attempt to guide the vehicle safely across a traffic signal. It happens everyday right under the nose of traffic police constables who are perched helplessly above and armed with only a pen and a notebook to make B-diary entries. Obviously the implementation of the rules is tardy. You will find jaywalkers who chat on their mobile phones while crossing the road at, for instance, the busy Binny Road-Anna Salai junction, where constables struggle to stall the impatient traffic for a while.
Then there are those who have hands-free sets plugged into their ears, and who continue to chat, unfazed either by the ire of impatient drivers behind or the fact that talking on the mobile phone while driving could endanger oneself or other road users.
Drivers in Chennai being as insensitive as they are, the practice continues to this day and mobile phone owners love to scream their heads off at times to be heard above the roar of a bus in the hands of an impatient driver at a signal.
Can the mobile phone owners, who are road users at some point of time everyday, be blamed for using mobile phones? They have the right to use a mobile phone, but they also have the duty to use these handsets more responsibly. What are the options open to motorised two-wheeler riders?
Using a hands-free set makes more sense, particularly if one uses a crash helmet. That a helmet on an average protects the head in case of a mishap is a fact all neurosurgeons swear by. Using a hands-free set does not make you immune to the rules valid today. The law prohibits you from using the mobile phone as long as the wheels of your vehicle are rolling. You are free to take or make a call after you stop your vehicle by the side of the road. The law does not state that you cannot stop in the middle of the road to use your mobile phone, but if you wish to convince yourself of how brave you are, you may unwittingly be writing your own blank epitaph. After all, you do not enjoy the traffic privileges of the bovine species.
Some people insist that since the law does not prohibit drivers from chatting with fellow passengers, there should be no objection if drivers whisper into a mobile phone that has an attached hands-free set. There is a significant difference between chatting on the phone and doing so face-to-face. One is usually more focussed when speaking on the phone. Haven't you noticed a person lost in a conversation on the phone, and completely unresponsive to your flapping hands and silent attempts to draw the person's attention to some fact that you wish to convey to the other end? The more important issue is, there is no point in arguing for or against the law.
There is another constitutional authority that reserves the right to contemplate on the validity of a law. So, as long as the law is not amended, its provisions remain unassailable.
The claim that crash helmets ruin the groomed locks; feel too heavy for comfort; are too bulky to carry around; or that visors create an additional glare at night; are impossible to handle, especially the chin-protecting types, if you wear frameless or rimless aids to compensate for poor eyesight, and suddenly need to sip water or some cool beverage quickly... are observations which cannot be dismissed perfunctorily.
That crash helmets can be deadweight on the head may have some validity, but doesn't it make more sense to carry the head load and nurse that word than robbing it of its weight?
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