- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2007

12:04 p.m.

NEW DELHI (AP) - A court has banned smoking while driving in India’s capital in what is believed to be the first of its kind ruling in any major city worldwide.

Declaring “New Delhi roads dangerous to human life,” the city’s High Court imposed new measures aimed at deterring habitually bad drivers, including the smoking ban and a prohibition on using mobile phones while behind the wheel.

“Anything that distracts the attention of driver is dangerous. The human mind cannot do two things simultaneously,” said New Delhi traffic commissioner Qamar Ahmed, welcoming yesterday’s ruling, which goes into effect Monday and only covers New Delhi.

Those caught smoking behind the wheel would pay $32, a heavy fine by local standards. Offenders caught more than five times would have their license revoked, the court said. The same fines apply to using a cell phone and the less well-defined offense of “dangerous driving.”

Under the new measures, a motorist running a red light will pay $13, compared with the current $2.50.

The new penalties came in an order issued by Justices Swanter Kumar and H.R. Malhotra, who were acting on their own as the death toll on city roads rose to more than 1,900 annually. Existing traffic laws, which have not been updated since their introduction 20 years ago, are going largely ignored.

“Immense influx of light and vehicular traffic has made New Delhi roads dangerous to human life,” the two judges were quoted as saying by The Times of India. “The gravity of offenses like rash driving and red-light jumping has lost their impact because of low fines.”

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