India Cracks Down on Rear Seatbelt Usage
It has been mandatory to wear a seatbelt when traveling in the backseat of an automobile in India since the Motor Vehicle act in 2004, however, adherence to this rule has been rare. A 2017 study conducted by Indian automobile manufacturer Maruti Suzuki India Limited, found that as few as 4% of back seat riders in India were using their seatbelts (Bhura, 2022). Seatbelts can dramatically improve vehicle safety as illustrated by a Kahane study in 2015 which indicated that one can reduce fatality and critical injury by as much as 50% through seatbelt usage (Express News Service, 2023). In 2020, more than 11 percent of deaths and injuries on the roads of India were caused by drivers and passengers failing to use their seatbelts and car-crash-related injuries have been on the rise, reaching a peak of over 155,000 lives lost in crashed in 2021 (New Vehicle Rules, 2022).
Seatbelt reform in India was kicked into a higher gear by the tragic death of Cyrus Mistry, former chairman of the Tata Group, an Indian conglomerate, in September 2022. Mistry was riding in the back seat of a vehicle when it crashed into a median in Mumbai. Mistry, as well as another back-seat passenger were not wearing seatbelts and died instantly. This high-profile accident has brought greater public attention to the rear seatbelt issue in India, when many passengers have been simply unaware of the potential to be fined for failing to wear a seatbelt in the backseat since the implementation of the MVA in 2004 (New Vehicle Rules, 2022).
Other car-safety measures have also been gaining traction in the country; Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport & Highways in India, has signed new a regulation that will require all 8-passenger automobiles manufactured in India to include a minimum of six airbags. This mandate will go into effect in October 2023 and is evidence of the countries noble focus on improved road safety for it’s citizens. Some residents have noted that even with new lane sensors, airbags, and other safety features, the seatbelt remains the single most important component: rear airbags often will not even deploy if the passenger does not have the seatbelt engaged.
Some seatbelt-mandate opponents point to apparent inequalities in the enforcement of the rear seatbelt mandate, claiming that commercial vehicles including taxis seem to be exempt. These disparities can be traced back to the early days of the mandate in which 40% of the 10,000 e-challans issued to taxi drivers over a 6 month period consisted of violations pertaining to passengers not wearing seatbelts. Complaints arose regarding the unfairness of this rule (taxi drivers cannot forcer their passengers to wear seatbelts) and enforcement for taxis was paused and a new system of issuing challans directly to the passengers in violation is being developed. In the meantime, taxi drivers have begun installing more seatbelts in their rear seats (Sood & Rao, 2023).
The benefits of seatbelts have long been known; according to the CDC 53% of drivers killed in car crashes in 2009 were not wearing seatbelts, which reduce risk of death by 45% and reduce the risk of serious injury by 50%. Seatbelts saved as many as 13,000 lives in the US in 2009, and could have saved an additional 4,000, had usage rates been higher. There are substantial financial implications to these statistics as well, with crash deaths and injuries in the US in 2009 accounting for over $70 billion in medical and lost work costs (CDC, 2011). The financial implications for India stand to be even greater because India’s road networks currently contain about 330 million vehicles compared to the 290 million in the US.
At ACS Industries we are passionate about vehicle safety and have been manufacturing seatbelt components while also leading the global pyrotechnic airbag inflator filter market for decades. We believe that well-engineered and well-manufactured systems can greatly boost automotive safety and bring peace of mind to drivers and passengers alike. Drivers across the globe deserve to benefit from these systems and we hope that this wave of reform in India continues to gain momentum and save lives. ACS’s newest manufacturing plant in Indapur, Maharashtra, India became fully operational earlier this year and stands ready to meet the new demands generated by the burgeoning automotive safety market in the country.
To find out how ACS can put our global automotive safety manufacturing experience to work to deliver the perfect safety systems for your application, give us a call at +1 866 783 4838, or email us at [email protected].
Bhura, S. (2022) The rarity that is the rear seat belt culture in India, The Week. Available at: https://www.theweek.in/leisure/society/2022/09/13/rear-seat-belt-culture-india-road-safety.html (Accessed: 21 August 2023).
Express News Service. (2022, October 14). Why Mumbai’s imposition of a front/back seat belt rule can save lives. The Indian Express. Retrieved August 21, 2023, from https://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health-specials/mumbai-front-back-seat-belt-rule-save-lives-8208906/
New Vehicle Rules: Rear Seat Belts, Airbags.What Govt Plans To Make Mandatory After Cyrus Mistry’s Death. Outlook. (2022, September 7). August 21, 2023. https://www.outlookindia.com/national/nitin-gadkari-on-new-vehicle-rules-rear-passengers-without-seat-belt-to-be-fined-news-221554#:~:text=Data%20on%20road%20accidents&text=A%20report%20titled%20’Road%20accidents,at%2015%2C146%20and%2039%2C102%2C%20respectively
Sood, M., & Rao, S. (2023, May 15). 3 Months On, Rear Seat Belt Rule Being Implemented Arbitrarily, Say Motorists. Hindustan Times. August 21, 2023. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/mumbai-news/3-months-on-rear-seat-belt-rule-being-implemented-arbitrarily-say-motorists-101678821952825.html
CDC. (2011, January 3). Policy impact: Seat belts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/seatbeltbrief/index.html#:~:text=Seat%20belts%20prevent%20drivers%20and,crash%20die%20from%20their%20injuries