Police checking documents of motorists in a file photo in Islamabad. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: Islamabad traffic police department has decided to make the use of mobile phones while driving a serious offence in the capital city of Pakistan.

The police have also suggested increasing fines for drivers found using phones while driving. The proposed fine for motorcyclists will be Rs1,000, car drivers Rs1,500 and public transport drivers Rs2,000 for using mobile phones for any purpose including text, calls and making videos while driving. The cabinet’s approval is required to enforce the new fines.

The new penalties will strengthen the deterrent against using a mobile phone for drivers so that people do not consider it a minor offence that they can get away with.

At least 15,233 drivers have been fined only Rs300 for using mobile phones while driving since 2021.

Since January, Islamabad Traffic Police (ITP) has registered 53 accidents of vehicles hitting bikes, 21 accidents of vehicles hitting pedestrians and 30 collisions. At least 69 of these car accidents were fatal.

There are no specific statistics of car crashes involving a distracted driver using a mobile phone but the officials say that using a mobile phone at the wheel creates a significant accident risk to the driver and other people on the road.

SP Islamabad Traffic Police Sarfraz Virk said that the law enforcement agencies require additional tools and resources to reduce fatal accidents and injury crashes resulting from distracted driving. Data and information is also critical to help educate policymakers about the importance of strong traffic laws and public awareness campaigns.

At least 5,436 people died and 12,317 were injured in 9,701 road accidents in Pakistan in 2019-20, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. Most of the fatally injured motorcyclists did not wear helmets.

Globally, the lives of approximately 1.3 million people are cut short every year as a result of a road traffic crashes, according to WHO.