‘People think back-seaters don’t need belt': Nitin Gadkari on need for seatbelts
Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has highlighted India's abysmal road safety record on multiple occasions and has now once again underlined the need for all occupants inside a vehicle to buckle up. Stressing on just how important seatbelts are in preventing serious injuries or even tragic deaths in case of an accident, Gadkari said people often forget that even rear-seat occupants need to make use of these basic but crucial safety devices.
Speaking at IAA's ‘Global Summit - Nations As Brands’ event, Gadkari highlighted how seatbelts on the rear seats are often ignored. "People think back-seaters don't need belts. It is the problem. I don't want to make any comments on any accident. But both front-seaters and back-seaters need to wear seat belts," he said. The ‘accident’ he briefly mentioned was the tragic death of former Chairman of Tata Group Cyrus Mistry. Initial investigations have revealed that Mistry wasn't wearing his seatbelt while seated in the back seat of the ill-fated Mercedes GLC SUV when it crashed against a barrier. (Read more here)
Numerous nation-wide surveys have found that an overwhelming number of people ignore the seatbelt when at the back of a vehicle. Gadkari himself highlighted how certain devices are used to ensure the belts are in place when not being worn. "Forget the cars of common people, I had travelled in the cars of 4 chief ministers -- don't ask me the names. I was in the front seat and found that there was a clip so that it does not make any sound when there is no belt. I asked the drivers where the belts were and made sure that I wear the seat belt before the car started," he said. “Now I have banned the manufacturing and sales of such clips."
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While compliance and enforcement for rear seatbelts are both low, so is the general level of awareness and the road transport ministry is taking assistance form celebrities to address this issue.
Can airbags save lives?
Gadkari outlined that his ministry is working towards making it mandatory for all car manufacturers to equip their vehicles with six airbags across variants. "The same manufacturers put 6 airbags when they export those cars. Then why do you put only 4 airbags in Indian cars? Don't our lives have any values? An airbag costs only ₹900 and when the number increases, the cost will only come down," he said.
Airbags do indeed provide a big safety cover in case of an unfortunate accident but experts continue to believe that it is the seatbelt that is the most important safety feature inside a car. More often than not, compliance is due to fear of penalties and fines, and not so much because of a fear for life. This is where awareness can play a big part.