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Enforcement & education is key rather than airbags, say IRF experts on road safety

Published: Updated – 15:21, Thu – 22 September 22

Representative picture Data in India shows that more than 70 percent of car occupants do not use front seat belts and 96 percent do not use rear seat belts.

New Delhi: Enforcement and education is key rather than the government’s focus on six airbags in passenger cars, the International Road Federation (IRF) road safety agency said.

In a crash, seat belts are primary fasteners, while airbags are additional support. Several global studies have shown that deploying an airbag without the seat belt on can cause serious injury and even death, according to IRF experts.

Data in India shows that more than 70 percent of car occupants do not wear a seat belt in the front and 96 percent do not wear a seat belt in the back. India continues to struggle with the problem of road safety with the highest number of fatalities in the world, about 1.6 lakh per year.

“In 2015, as part of the UN’s Decade of Action for Road Safety, we pledged to reduce road deaths by 2020. But all these years we have continued to strive. Data from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) from 2020 shows that more than 64 percent of road deaths occur among vulnerable road users (VRUs Pedestrians + Cyclists + 2-Wheelers). The same data also show that the VRU’s share of deaths has been rising steadily over the past five years. The share of the VRU in road deaths has increased from 47 percent in 2016 to 49 percent in 2017, 55 percent in 2018 and 57 percent in 2019.” said KK Kapila, President, Emeritus, International Road Federation (IRF) that works for better and safer roads worldwide.

“On the contrary, the number of car occupant fatalities has continuously decreased, from 18 percent in 2016 to 13.6 percent in 2020. In Delhi, India’s high-density capital, as many as 89 percent of car inmate fatalities are about 5 per cent. In contrast, while cars have been mandated with 10 different safety regulations in the past two years, we have hardly any strong regulatory measures aimed at reducing VRU deaths,” he said.

“According to the 2018 WHO report, India ranks 3 to 4 (on a scale of 10) on most enforcement parameters such as helmets, seat belts, drink-driving, speeding. This contrasts with a much higher score of 9 to 10 for enforcement in most of the developed world. Ironically, we benchmark the same countries when we draft road safety regulations, but ignore them for enforcement benchmarking,” said Satish Parakh, Chair of the IRF-India Chapter.

“According to MoRTH data, 70 percent of fatal crashes involving two-wheelers showed that the victims were NOT wearing helmets; and in 87 percent of car accident deaths, victims were found NOT to be wearing seat belts. Unfortunately, 96 percent of car passengers don’t wear a seat belt in the back seat. It is high time we move away from the populist ideology of mandating regulations, safety features like six airbags, but bite the bitter pill of enforcement and sanctions that could hit the masses.” added Parakh.

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