Cyrus Mistry, eminent business personality and former Tata Sons chairman recently died in a road crash involving a high-speed vehicle being driven by someone else. As per the preliminary probe by the Maharashtra Police, Mistry was seated in the back seat of a Mercedes-Benz and was not wearing a seat belt. He, along with his co-passenger died in the crash, while both the front seat occupants wearing seat belts are safe and hospitalized with serious injuries. This unfortunate incident has led to Indians talking about the safety of the rear occupants, and more so, the importance of wearing a rear seat belt.
Wearing a seat belt in the rear seat is mandatory as per the Central Motor Vehicle Rules of the Indian government, but very few are aware of the rule. According to the Rule 138 (3) of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR) persons “seated in the front seat or the persons occupying front facing rear seats” must wear seat belts while the vehicle is in motion. Failure to do so can result in a traffic fine of Rs 1,000.
Lack of public awareness
Despite the law, only a few people in India wear the seat belt in the rear seat and has partially to do with lack of awareness. A road safety NGO, SaveLIFE Foundation, conducted a study across 11 cities which included 6,306 respondents. The study found that only 7% said they used rear seat-belts, while only 27.7% of the respondents were aware that their use was mandatory.
Lack of enforcement
Not just public awareness, there’s a lack of enforcement on the part of police authorities across India. Many top cops have stated in the past that the shortage of police personal results in lack of enforcement as most cops are busy to enforce much serious rules, including breaking traffic light or not wearing seat belt in the front seat among others. Also, there’s a resistance from the public if they are penalised.
Importance of rear seat belt
As per the World Health Organisation, the use of rear seat-belts can prevent lower the risk of death in the rear seat by upto 25%. Not only this, it can also prevent excess injury or death for the front seat passenger as the rear seat passengers won’t topple on the front seat passengers. “Over 30% of the fatal crashes investigated by SaveLIFE Foundation across various highways involved injuries suffered by passengers due to non-wearing of rear seat belts,” said Piyush Tewari founder of SaveLIFE Foundation.
Ministry of Road Transport and Highways earlier proposed that all front facing seats in vehicles of M1 category (motor vehicle used for the carriage of passengers, comprising not more than eight seats) should be provided with three-point belts. Earlier, OEMs had an option to provide a three-point or two-point (waist strap) belt in the rear seats. While all the manufacturers do provide a 3-pounted seatbelt in the rear window side seats, the middle-rear seat only gets a strap belt.
With agencies inputs