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Himachal to ban carrying of cell phones by bus drivers


Shimla : Bus drivers in Himachal Pradesh would not be allowed to even carry their mobile phones, let alone use them. State Transport Minister Mohinder Singh Wednesday said usage of cell phones while driving is one of the main reasons that led to various accidents in the state.

More than 55 people died in bus accidents in Himachal Pradesh during the last two months.

“The government is serious about minimising accidents. The use of mobile phones by bus drivers is one of the main reasons (for the accidents). A total ban on carrying of mobile phones by bus drivers would be imposed soon,” Singh said.

He said a ban on the usage of mobile phones while driving was imposed last year but has not been followed in letter and spirit. “The drivers have been using their mobile phones despite the ban,” he added.

Enumerating the other reasons for the accidents, he said: “Of course, competition among private bus drivers to pick up more and more passengers leads to overspeeding and dangerous driving.”

Singh said checking of private buses plying on various routes would be intensified.

Neena Devi, a passenger who got injured in one of the accidents, said poor frequency of buses in the state is responsible for overloading of public transport vehicles.

“Since the government has not started additional bus services on various routes, travelling in overloaded vehicles is the only option,” she said.

Police officers blamed buses belonging to private operators and their reckless untrained drivers for most of the fatal accidents in the state.

Director General of Police G.S. Gill said: “The department has identified 556 accident-prone spots, including 210 on national highways, in the state. We are taking measures along with the public works department to minimise the accidents.”

Twentythree people died Tuesday in an accident near Sundernagar town in Mandi district on Chandigarh-Manali National Highway-21. The ill-fated private mini bus was coming to Sundernagar from Bilaspur town when it fell into a gorge.

Ramesh Sharma, an injured passenger, said the overspeeding bus was descending a steep gradient when it skidded off the road and rolled down the gorge. “The bus driver probably lost control at a hairpin bend,” he said.

Deputy Commissioner (Mandi) Onkar Sharma said overspeeding was the primary reason for the accident. “The exact cause of the accident is yet to be ascertained and a magisterial probe has been ordered,” he told IANS.

According to police records, around 8,000 people were killed in the past 10 years in road accidents in the state.

Accidental deaths numbered an all-time high of 979 in 2,955 accidents in 2007. Last year, 581 people were killed in road mishaps.