The recent Mercedes Benz accident that resulted in the death of business tycoon Cyrus Mistry seems to have put the focus back on safety. Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, a long time votary of better road safety in India, has come down heavily on car makers. The minister has questioned why car makers offer 6 airbags on export versions of cars while the same cars sold in India are fitted only with 4 airbags.
Here is what Mr. Gadkari said in a recent media interaction following Cyrus Mistry’s death in a road accident that also claimed the life of his friend, Jahangir Pandole,
The same company, when it exports those cars, puts in six airbags but when they make them for the locals, they only put four. Are the lives of the poor not worthy of being saved? Every year, there are 5 lakh accidents in India and 1,50,000 deaths from road accidents. Out of this, 65 percent of deaths belong to people who are in the 18-34 age group. What is important is saving lives.
Mr. Gadkari has gone on to state that each additional airbag fitted to a car costs only Rs. 900 to the automaker, and that a law to make six airbags mandatory in cars sold in India will soon come into effect. While Mr. Gadkari has been batting for six airbags as standard on all cars sold in India, car makers are stating that adding 6 airbags to entry level cars would make them too expensive. In the past, Maruti Suzuki chairman RC Bhargava has gone on record stating that a car is inherently safer that a two wheeler, and that the focus should be on getting more people into cars from two wheelers. Keeping entry level cars affordable would be critical for this, according to Mr. Bhargava.
Mr. Gadkari has also turned his attention towards the use, or rather disuse of rear seat belts. The transport minister has stated that a notification regarding the penalization of car passengers who don’t wear rear seat belts would be issued in the next three days. Also, the minister now wants seat belt alarms for the rear seat as well. Currently, seat belt alarms are standard for the front passengers across all cars sold in India. Adding the same feature to the rear seat, along with a penalty for non compliance, is likely to prompt rear seat passengers to also wear seat belts. Here’s what the minister told BusinessStandard,
In next three days we will notify that if one doesn’t wear seat belt sitting on the rear seat in a car, then he or she will be penalised. Because of Cyrus Mistry Accident, I have decided that in rear seat there will be alarm for seat belt like it is for driver seat. There will be penalty for not wearing seatbelt in rear seats in cars.