Seat belts usage in India is nothing short of disappointing and despite the safety belt being compulsory by the law, a larger part of our population chooses to not wear them, jeopardising their own safety. The negative impact of not wearing seat belts is quite serious and a considerable blow to economic and societal health. The Road Accident Report 2016 by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH), stated that around 1.5 lakh people lost their lives in road accidents in India. The situation is so bad that the number of people dying due to not wearing seatbelts is higher than those lost to terrorism. Naturally, with such grave safety issues, the Government has framed up a plan to lower road accidents by 50 % by 2020. One might say it’s an ambitious plan but when human lives are being lost there cannot be anything less than ambitious targets.
Let’s look at a few simple numbers to understand the extent of loss being caused by not wearing seat belts, something a lot of Indians laugh past considering it a useless tool. Going by the MORTH 2016 report, 1,317 accidents take place daily in India, out of which 413 deaths are caused, translating into 17 deaths per hour! Not wearing seat belts led to the death of 5,638 people in 2016, which in a shorter time cycle means 15 deaths per day for not wearing a set belt.
While it is imperative to make people understand the benefits of wearing seat belts, it is equally important to understand what stops them wearing the belt and why they voluntarily put their lives at risk. Maruti Suzuki along with Kantar Group undertook a research to find out numerous behavioural patterns exhibited by Indian regarding usage of seat belts. Here are some of the most interesting findings from the study. In addition, since safety is an ongoing mission, Express Drives is starting a series of safety articles, wherein one article every week will look at different aspects of such data and explain how we can improve the safety for ourselves and our families.
We Indians simply hate wearing seat belts, unfortunately, that is for us. As per the research findings, about 75 % vehicle occupants in India do not put on a seatbelt. The 25 % people who intend to live longer consists of both front and rear passengers. Alarmingly, of the 75 % who don’t wear seatbelts, 43 % never use it! That’s like taking a stroll in a minefield while being fired upon from both sides! Chances are high, you will be hit someday, given the number of accidents on Indian roads.
If you thought, you’ve seen the pit of people’s ignorance for their own safety, you couldn’t be more wrong. In cabs, the number of people caring for their lives drops to a dismal 12 %!. Germany, in contrast, has almost 98 % seat belt usage and most countries in the EU aren’t far off either.
In Indian regions too, the data turned up a few surprises. Contrary to popular notion, people in South India have a lower seat-belt usage rate than North Indians, leading to a much higher death rate due to not wearing seatbelts. Of the people that do not use seat belts, South Indians came in at a high 89 % for never wearing it compared to the 42 % in North India. Jaipur and Chandigarh displayed highest adoption rate for seat belts at 56 % and 48 %, respectively. Usage rate too turned out to lowest in South India with only 10% drivers buckling up with a slightly higher 15% co-drivers opting for the belt. Naturally, as a result of low-usage of seat belts, deaths caused by not buckling up in South India are highest in India.
While these findings are extremely disturbing, it is every citizen’s responsibility to help create a safer surrounding for our future generations. With airbags soon set to become mandatory in India, wearing a set belt becomes even more important as an airbag in absence of seat belt could either be totally useless or cause more harm then that could’ve been caused by not wearing the seat belt alone.
In the next article of this series, we’ll take a look at the reasons for which people do not wear seat belts and trust us, some of these reasons will either have you rolling on the floor or will force you to have confidence in the rapid depletion of common sense in human beings.
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