Rear seat belt should be compulsory or not?
Union Minister Gopinath Munde’s death in a recent road accident has opened up an issue of wearing a rear seat belt and its importance. If it is life saving then why wearing a rear seat belt is not compulsory in India? According to WHO, India has the highest number of deaths in road accidents (105,275 in 400,000 accidents). It is sufficient to understand the terrible condition of road safety standards in our country. Also it has been found out that 25% of deaths can be avoided by wearing seat belts.

By law, after March 25, 1994 manufactures were asked to equip cars with front seat belts in India. The rule then extended to cover rear seat belt in 2002. Use of front seat belt was made compulsory in 2002.

Most of the people sitting on the front seat fast seat belt out of traffic police fear but not for safety. How can they be made to understand the importance of rear seat belt? Probably many of us do not even bother to look at rear seat belt. But wearing these is necessary for the safety of your family or friend.

The vehicle in which Munde was travelling has not been damaged to that extent but Munde could not bear the impact. Union Minister Harsh Vardhan stated that if Munde had worn the seat belt then he would have survived. Death of Princess Diana in a car crash, demise of former Delhi CM and minister in the Vajpayee government Sahib Singh in a road accident could have been avoided if they would have worn seat belts. Many such examples like death famous satirist Jaspal Bhatti in road accident prove the necessity of wearing seat belt.

Sensing the importance of the issue, the health ministry will take up initiatives in the form of “major multimedia awareness campaign” to make people understand the safety etiquettes while driving.

But it is not the only cause of such tragic incidents in India. Indian families use small cars but four out of five small cars (Volkswagen Polo, Tata Nano, Alto 800 and Hyundai i10) have failed the crash test based on UN standards few months ago. Ford Figo is the only car to clear that 56 kmph crash test.

Then comes the condition of roads and haphazard traffic of all kind and from all sides on the roads. Not following traffic rules, jumping red lights, anger and urge to drive fast and rash and use of mobile phones while driving are few more to the list of problems. Now in such a condition wearing a rear seat belt should be absolutely mandatory.

Research in the UK further gives a clear cut idea on the importance of wearing a seat belt. By wearing front seat belt you reduce the chances of fatal injury by 45%, chances of moderate-to-fatal injury are reduced by 50%. If you are traveling in SUV or van then by wearing rear seat belt chances of fatal injuries are reduced by 73% and children of parents wearing seat belts are 92% safer. Are not the figures say it all?

Wearing a seat belt is compulsory in most of the European countries, Australia and Canada. In US the rule varies with the state. Though not wearing seat belt is a punishable offence in India under law but lack of strict enforcement is the problem. To make people wear seat belts heavy fine must be imposed.

Vehicles on roads are increasing at an alarming rate but our infrastructure and laws are not in place to provide the adequate safety. Seat belts are not inessential but a life saving add on, hence must be used by all.

What is your call on this issue?