IN continuation of the series of significant regulations introduced over the past couple of years to improve safety features in vehicles, the Union Transport Ministry has in another welcome move proposed to make dual airbags mandatory by mid-2021. Earlier, in July 2019, it had made airbags for the driver of a four-wheeler compulsory. With the new draft provision, the seat belt-strapped front-seat passenger in a car is expected to become safer against possible injuries and death as the bag cushions the impact of a crash. For a smooth drive into this global standard, efforts are needed to iron out such obstacles as a fair distribution of the airbag cost between the consumer and the manufacturer, an impediment that is likely to be flagged by the stakeholders. It calls for the revving up of production and supply by the due date, considering the bump caused by the pandemic-induced lockdown.
The Indian automobile industry has been steadily headed towards both a technical alignment with world-class norms as well as meeting environmental imperatives through stringent emission standards. The value provided by the compulsory compliance to recent measures like the antilock braking system (ABS), airbags, crash tests and BS6 norms more than offsets the price hike of cars that they trigger. More importantly, given the fact that India accounts for the highest number of road accident deaths in the world, the gains in terms of resultant reduced fatalities and injuries are immeasurable. Of course, provided the roads are shipshape, a condition rarely met.
At same time, the gains accrued from advanced highways and automobile technologies can be largely negated if the humans handling the vehicles fail to adhere to traffic rules. Responsible driving holds the key to boosting passenger safety. Shamefully, despite strict rules and penalties, we have not applied the brakes on rash driving, overspeeding, drunk driving, using phones while steering the wheel, avoiding seat belt or helmet — the major factors leading to the average of 17 accidents an hour across the country, as reflected in the 2019 report of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.