The tragic death of former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry and family friend Jehangir Pandole in a car accident has turned the spotlight yet again on lax safety rules for car passengers in India.
What is the issue?
- Mistry and Pandole were travelling in the back seat of a Mercedes sports utility vehicle and were reportedly not wearing seat belts. Had they worn the seat belts, they would have been saved, as were the driver and the co-passenger in the front seat.
- The irony is that rear seat belts have been mandatory under the Central Motor Vehicle Rules but the rule is rarely enforced.
- A study in 2019 across 11 cities revealed that only 7 per cent of respondents said they used rear seat belts and only 27 per cent were aware that their use was mandatory.
What is the statistics of road accidents in India?
- This accident adds to the grim toll that ranks India among the global top 10 in terms of road accident deaths. Some 1,50,000 people die in road accidents each year. Not all of these are outright collisions from rash or drunk driving; jaywalking along highways and related deaths from careless pedestrians add to the toll.
- But a good proportion of these deaths of drivers and passengers could have been prevented had rear seat belts and airbags been deployed.
Bogus arguments of automobile industry –
- Given this reality, the car industry’s resistance to the government proposal to mandate the introduction of Y-belts for middle rear seat passengers in place of the waist belt and the deployment of side airbags in all cars irrespective of size is indefensible.
- The industry has argued that the additional safety requirements — principally the deployment of six airbags — will push up the cost of cars at a time when the industry is struggling against sluggish demand, principally, they say, because car buyers are unwilling to pay a premium for safety features.
- It is worth recalling that the introduction of mandatory front seat belts and airbags had been met with similar objections until car companies discovered that there was no correlation between safety features and demand.
- Car makers are focusing their arguments on the small car market, without considering the fact that these are the most unsafe vehicles on Indian roads today, not least because manufacturers have steadily reduced the thickness of the bodywork in the interests of cost saving.
- The proliferation of six-lane highways all over India has meant that speed limits have risen to 100 kmph, making safety features in cars even more critical.
Way forward –
The Union Road Transport Minister has rightly called out the double standards of car makers in their reluctance to add safety features to cars they make for the Indian market, though all these features are added to export models. The government should resist the vocal car makers’ lobby and stick to the planned October 1 deadline on airbags.
Cyrus Mistry’s accident should concentrate minds now.
Source – Business Standard
QUESTION – The recent high profile death of Former Tata Sons Chairman highlights the need to be uncompromising towards road safety standards. Discuss the latest safety provisions that the government had brought and why the car makers are resisting the same. Analyse with rational arguments.