India: Govt plans to improve road safety after Mistry vehicle crash

One person dies every four minutes in vehicle accidents in the country, the World Bank said last year



Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

By Reuters

Published: Wed 7 Sep 2022, 9:52 AM

Last updated: Wed 7 Sep 2022, 11:15 AM

India is planning to finalise rules for all cars to have six airbags by the end of the current fiscal year, as part of a series of steps to improve safety in a country that has the world's deadliest roads.

Draft rules mandating all cars to be fitted with six airbags were made public in January and were expected to be finalised a month later, but they are facing resistance from some car makers which say it will increase vehicle prices.

The government is also planning to mandate alarm systems for rear seat belts — in order to enforce their use — the transport minister said late on Tuesday.

These moves come after Cyrus Mistry, the former chairman of Indian conglomerate Tata Sons, died in a car crash on Sunday. He was sitting in the rear seat and did not have his seat belt on, local media reported, citing police officials.

"Because of this Cyrus accident we have decided ... an alarm will continue to beep until those sitting in the rear seats put on their seat belt," Nitin Gadkari said, during an event organised by Indian daily Business Standard.

"There is already an alarm for those in the front seats, and now it will beep for rear seat belts too," he added.

While wearing seat belts is already mandatory for all occupants in a car in India — the world's fourth-biggest auto market — failing which they can be fined, passengers at the back seldom do. Enforcement, especially in the case of passengers at the back, is quite lax.

Gadkari said he planned to strictly enforce these rules, and would introduce penalties for non-compliance.

"The behaviour of the people is very important. We need to change the mindset of the people," he said.

In India, one person dies every four minutes in road accidents, the World Bank said last year.

"Life safety is important for all people," Gadkari said, adding that he hoped to halve road accidents and deaths by the end of 2024.

More than 133,000 people were killed in 355,000 road accidents in 2020, government data showed. About 3 million cars are sold in India each year, and car passengers accounted for 13 per cent of the deaths.

The ministry estimated that having airbags, along with seat belts, would have saved the lives of at least one-third of the 39,000 people who died in road accidents in 2020 due to head-on or side collisions.

"We have asked car makers to be quality conscious, not cost conscious," Gadkari said, adding that cars exported from India to several other markets are already fitted with six airbags so can be easily introduced in the country as well.

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