Non-compliance will attract fines, Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road Transport & Highways has said.
The move comes after the lack of awareness, particularly highlighted from the non-usage of rear seatbelts that claimed the life of former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry on September 4.
The tragic road accident involving the death of former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry in the afternoon hours of Sunday, has brought into sharp focus the need to strap on seat belts even when sitting in the rear seats of any passenger vehicle.
While social media has been abuzz since the occurrence of the fatal incident with road safety and automotive experts pressing upon the dire need of using rear-occupant seat belts in passenger vehicles, the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, too came out acknowledging the importance of this primary restraint system in cars.
"Like we made it mandatory for all cars to have a seat-belt warning alarm for front passengers, we will now impose the same for rear-seat occupants as well," the Minister said addressing a gathering at an event organised by Business Standard on September 6. "The irritating beep will compel rear-seat occupants to belt up as well," he remarked.
Gadkari further added that following the unfortunate accident that took away the life of the former Tata Sons chairman, the Ministry has swiftly decided to issue a notification detailing a penalty structure for occupants who do not wear a seat belt when seated in the rear seats of a car, within the next three days.
Although the said fine (of Rs 1,000) has already been in place under the article 138 (3) of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR), the problem seems more of enforcement and user behaviour than regulations. A majority of people in India callously overlook belting up in the rear seats of a car, often assuming that since there's no immediate dashboard or steering wheel in front of them, they are housed in a much safer place. In fact, a predominant number of mass-market cars offered in the country even from reputable global OEMs, make do with just a lap belt for the rear middle-seat occupant, instead of a proper three-point seat belt like for the driver and front co-passenger.
However, crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), a US-based non-for-profit organisation, suggest that if a car, traversing at 56kph, were to encounter a frontal collision, the rear-seat occupants will be sent flying towards the front, therefore, risking their lives as well as that of the front occupants, despite the vehicle being equipped with frontal, side and curtain airbags.
Although the Minister's remarks come after the tragic accident, the ministry had issued a draft notification earlier this year in January, to mandate six airbags in all passenger vehicles, up to a seating capacity of eight occupants, starting October 1, 2022.
Even though the automotive industry has reacted saying this would send the prices of cars, especially those at the entry-level of the spectrum soaring, the recent incident has again brought light to the fact that seatbelts remain the primary means of ensuring safety inside a passenger vehicle, followed by airbags, which are the supplemental restraint systems.
As per the latest data on road safety, there is an upward trend – both in terms of accidents and the number of lives lost in the country. The National Crime Record Bureau’s report on ‘Accidental Deaths in India – 2021’ released last month reports a total of 403,116 road accident cases last year. This is an increase of 13.61 percent year on year (CY2020: 354,79). While the fatalities in road accidents have increased by 16.83%, from 133,201 in 2020 to 155,622 in 2021, a total of 371,884 people were injured, up 11 percent on 2020’s 335,000. The rate of deaths per thousand vehicles in 2021 has increased from 0.45 in 2020 to 0.53 in 2021.
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