The Indian automotive industry is exploding, and with this exponential growth, another factor also grows exponentially. The number of road-related deaths in the country which currently stands at 55 an hour. To put that in perspective, that 1320 people who lose their lives every day. The true grief is that most of these lives are lost on counts of carelessness, non-adherence of rules and a generally low sense of self-preservation. India loses more than 5000 people a year because they don’t want to adhere to seatbelt laws. In an intriguing article by Maruti’s C V Raman, Executive Director, R&D at Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, questioned why we as a people have such low sense of self-preservation. He says in his article
“Car companies are investing in extensive research, testing and evaluation to ensure these cars meet advanced safety norms. In Maruti Suzuki, for example, we crash test 35-40 cars of each model at our advanced R&D Centre in Rohtak (Haryana) before we can be satisfied that it meets the forthcoming safety norms.
All this effort and investment is being made to minimize injury and fatalities in road accidents. Nearly 1.5 lakh people die on Indian roads each year. Disturbed by this, Mr Nitin Gadkari, the Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, has taken the challenge of bringing this to half by 2020. As automobile engineers, it gives us great satisfaction to be contributing our efforts to a national goal.
However, all these efforts may be nullified if we do not acquire a basic habit: putting on the seat belt while travelling in an automobile. Strange as it may seem, the more advanced the safety features in a car, the more critical is the role of the humble seat belt. For example, in a vehicle with airbags, if the passengers are not wearing the seat belt at the time of a crash, an airbag could end up causing harm to the passengers.”
Which means the entire point of all this legislation being put forth by the Government and Mr Gadkari will amount to nought. The facts are clear; WHO ( report published in 2015), wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of fatality among drivers and front seat passengers by 45-50%! The risk of serious injuries comes down to 45%. Among passengers on the rear seat, says WHO, seat belts reduce fatal and serious injuries by 25%. In fact, this is leading countries to not just adopt comprehensive seat belt laws, but also strengthen enforcement.
Mr Raman's article ends urging all road-users to wear their seatbelts without needing to be asked, or fear of enforcement.Mr Raman says “ India’s record with regard to seat belts is dismal and shocking. In most parts of the country, vehicle users are not even expected to wear a seatbelt. There is practically no enforcement of this rule. Even where enforcement is stringent, it is confined to the passengers in the front seats. For some strange reason, rear seat passengers are not expected to wear the seat belts provided for them.
I see this as a big opportunity. If we could only adopt this simple act of wearing a seatbelt each time we use a vehicle – voluntarily, in areas where it is not enforced – we would be bringing down road fatalities by a significant number. As cars become more sophisticated in terms of safety, it is even more critical that we belt up every single time for ourselves and our loved ones.”
That sums it up then, safety is not something that can be implemented by us. It must be something that we actively think about for ourselves, for our families and for those around us. We must wear our seat belts at all times, we must stay away from our phones when driving and focus on the roads. Each day we reach our destination safely we beat the odds by just a little bit. It is time that we beat these odds together as a nation, till it is ingrained in us and our children and forever irradicated from the world.