Three-Point Seatbelts Mandatory For All Passengers In A Car
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways will soon make it compulsory for automobile manufacturers to provide three-point seatbelts for all passengers in a car, including for the third passenger seated in the middle of the rear seat. Recently, the ministry made six airbags mandatory for all passenger vehicles. All these measures are aimed at making car travel safer. These moves come as the government is aiming to reduce road accident-related fatalities. India is one of the countries with a major number of deaths that take place every year due to road accidents. As many as 1.5 lakh people die every year in nearly five lakh road accidents in India.
In India, only the front two seats and two rear seats have three-point seatbelts while the third passenger in the middle has to contend with a two-point or lap seatbelt, which is hardly of any help in case of a crash. Repeated studies have proved that three-point seatbelt is far safer than the two-point seat belt, causing less or no injuries to the chest, shoulders and pelvis regions in case of a crash. It may be noted that only a few models in India come with three-point seatbelts for rear middle seat. In fact, most models in India are rated 3-stars or below. Otherwise, vehicle safety norms in India are strict but its implementation is poor. While strengthening vehicle safety norms is necessary, it is equally important to know that passengers have been lax in following even the existing rules. For instance, a study found that about 90% of Indian car passengers risk their safety by not using rear seatbelts at all. As per the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, wearing rear seat belts is mandatory, but not many follow the rule. Almost a quarter of fatal accidents on highways in India happen because passengers refrain from wearing rear seatbelts.
In August 1959, Volvo became the first car manufacturer who introduced its then-patented three-point seatbelt in their cars. Due to public safety concerns, however, the company left the patent open. Despite this, experts point out that a lot of the problem can also be explained by passenger behaviour. This is because almost a third of Indians fail to use their rear seatbelts at all. A study conducted by SaveLIFE Foundation in 2019 across 11 cities which included 6,306 respondents found that only 7% said they used rear seat-belts. Only 27.7% of the respondents were aware that their use was mandatory. Of the parents surveyed who reported that their child sits on the rear seat, 77% reported that they sit without a rear seat-belt. As per the World Health Organisation, the use of rear seat-belts can prevent death of a rear seat passenger by 25%, it can also prevent excess injury or death for the front seat passenger.
Gadkari said that the need of the hour is to create mass awareness for road safety measures by information dissemination. He said that a system is being proposed for the star rating of vehicles in India based on the standards and protocol to improve safety. He also said that Electronic Stability Control, Advanced Emergency Braking Systems, ease of mobility for Divyangjan, Driver Drowsiness Attention Warning System (DDAWS), Blind Spot Information System, Advanced Driver Assisting system and Lane Departure Warning System, are among the safety initiatives being implemented.
While the use of rear seat belts is integral for ensuring safety of all passengers in a vehicle and mandatory under law, lack of awareness and poor enforcement are big impediments. There are many challenges for those responsible for enforcing the law. “Traffic police teams are acutely understaffed and therefore are able to check only a small percentage of road users. If a district is required to have 500 traffic personnel, actual deployment is negligible. Then there is also resistance from the public if they are penalised, which often results in allegations against police personnel.