Talking on the phone while driving can be a big distraction and this is why it is illegal. However, car drivers have been using handsfree devices and Bluetooth infotainment systems in the cars to connect to the phones and talk without holding the phone in their hands. Kerala Police has now said that even using hands-free devices including the OEM infotainment systems is illegal in India.
The social media post on the official social media page of the Kerala Police says that use of any kind of Bluetooth, headset or handsfree is illegal while driving/riding any vehicle. The police department has cited the CMVR 21(25) of the Motor Vehicle Act 19. The official post also adds that the music system is not illegal in the vehicles but these should not be operated in the driver’s attention.
Is this rule even legal?
Last year, the High Court of Kerala passed a ruling saying that the police cannot register a case against a person for driving while talking on the phone. The HC said that there is no provision in the law that bans the use of mobile phones while driving. However, the cops now use section 118(e) of the Kerala Police Act to book a person for driving while talking on the phone. Section 118(e) is used to charge the drivers for indulging any act that causes danger to public or failure in public safety. However, there is no other provision that specifically says that the driver cannot talk on the phone while driving.
However, the cops have cited the CMVR 21(25) of the Motor Vehicle Act 19. The rule states that:
Rule 21(6) of the central motor vehicles rules 1989 states that if the ‘driver, while driving a transport vehicle, engages himself in activity which is likely to disturb his concentration he would be guilty of the commission of an act that ‘shall constitute nuisance or danger to the public’. • Rule 21(25) of the central motor vehicles rules 1989 states that the act of ‘using mobile phone while driving a vehicle’ shall constitute nuisance or danger to the public.
Yet, the said rule provides a valuable guideline for determining as to what kind of driving would constitute dangerous driving under s.184 MVA’88. It may be considered reasonable, therefore, to treat the act of using a mobile phone while driving (an activity that may safely be assumed to cause a disturbance to the driver’s concentration) as an instance of dangerous driving chargeable under section 184 MVA’88.
The new MV Act currently got a clearance from the government but it is yet to be passed as a law. The new rule will be introduced in the Monsoon Session of the parliament and will be passed by the lower house and upper house of the parliament before it becomes a law. The new laws have clear laws against talking on the mobile phone while driving but it does not state if the driver can be fined while talking on the phone through Bluetooth handsfree devices or the stock infotainment system of the car.
Distractions while driving
While talking on the phones can be distracting, there are many other things that can be distracting while driving, including talking to the other occupants in the car. Talking on the phone while holding it means that one hand remains busy while driving and it can be really distracting. However, the eyes remain on the road. Texting while driving can be even more dangerous as it means that the eyes remain off the road for a longer duration, which can cause massive accidents on the roads.
Even using the infotainment system and checking the instrument cluster can be termed as distractions using the same logic as the Kerala Police. Since the eyes are not looking on the road ahead directly, the driver remains distracted for a while. While talking on the phone with the phone in hand can be termed as distracting, while talking on the phone, the distraction is minimal due to the fact that both the hands remain free and the eyes remain the road all the time for the duration of the call.
Using the same logic Kerala Police should make talking to each other inside the car illegal. Even doing things like drinking water while driving or having a bite while driving should be illegal. It is not known if anyone has been issued a fine based on the new announcement yet.