Mistry death: Experts call for better enforcement of seat belt regulations
The Mercedes GLC 220 crash, which claimed the lives of Cyrus Mistry, the scion of Shapoorji Pallonji Group and former chairman, Tata Sons, and Jehangir Pandole, director, global strategy Group at KPMG’s London office in the United Kingdom, has brought sharp focus on the passive safety features, including airbags and seat belts and their enforcement.
Safety experts are of the view that it’s high time that a regulation like wearing a seat belt is enforced in a much more stringent manner. To begin with, seat belts for rear passengers should be enforced at least on national highways when one is travelling at 70 kph and above. The highways account for 4 per cent of roadways but contribute to 39 per cent of total number of road accidents, said Rohit Baluja, president, Road Traffic Education.
Piyush Tiwari, CEO and Founder at SaveLife Foundation pointed out that this incident and hundreds of others, occurring every day call for a serious review of the lack of implementation of the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Act, 2019, fixing road engineering issues leading to such crashes and injuries, and embarking on a mass awareness and training campaign to ensure higher compliance with safety standards. SaveLife is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to improving road safety and emergency medical care across India.
To be sure, having passive features like seat belts alone doesn’t warrant safety in the event of a crash, its usage does.
“For an effective deployment of airbags, the occupants have to be buckled up. Otherwise, in the event of a crash, the rear passenger will be pushed forward with severe force and can cause injury or fatality to the front occupant as well,” said Baluja.
Sixty per cent of all fatal crashes are caused by speeding. “As for the top reasons for injury, non-usage of seatbelts and collision with exposed hard structures along the road played key roles,” said Tiwari.
Preliminary investigations by the police revealed that Mistry and Pandole, seated in the rear, weren’t wearing a seat belt, and must have been thrown in front at great velocity once the speeding car crashed into a divider, PTI reported on Monday.
The officials have noted that prima facie, the luxury car was speeding when the accident took place on Sunday afternoon, the news agency reported. The Mercedes car covered a distance of 20 km in just nine minutes after crossing the Charoti check post in Maharashtra’s Palghar district, 120 km away from Mumbai, as per the police officials.
Rear seat-belts are an important safety device. According to WHO, use of the rear seat belt reduces the probability of being killed by 25 per cent and injuries by 75 per cent. When examining the use of rear seat-belts in India, a study by SaveLife reveals that a majority of the people surveyed are aware of the presence of rear seat belt.
Although India has a law on the use of seatbelt, implementation is a challenge due to lack of awareness and weak enforcement of the laws. In 2017, 26,896 people died due to the non-usage of seat-belts in India according to Government data.
The GLC has seven airbags, including two curtain airbags at the rear. The S Class and the Maybach are the only two models in India that come with rear airbags, most of the other high-end cars have curtain airbags for the rear seat occupants.
“For those seated at the rear, the seat belt is the only prevention from injury in the event of an accident. The curtain airbags won’t be effective if the occupant isn’t fastened up,” said an official at a car company.
According to Baluja, it is important to have a scientific investigation of road accidents which only takes into account seat belts, air bags etc. but also the traffic engineering of that area. Whether proper speed limiting signs were put up, whether there were blind spots.
The investigating officers are not trained enough. “We need to look at the entire system comprehensively to come to a conclusion.”