As of now, belts are compulsory only for persons in the front seats

The City traffic police are all set to begin a campaign advocating wearing of safety belts by occupants of the rear seat in four-wheelers. This comes in the wake of Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan’s observation that his late colleague Gopinath Munde, who died in a car accident in New Delhi recently, could have been saved had he been wearing the seat belt.

Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) B Dayananda told The Hindu that they had always been advising four-wheeler occupants to use wear safety belts in the rear seat as well for a safe journey. “Now, we will initiate an awareness campaign in the regard,” he said.

Though the law mandates car manufacturers to provide safety belts even for rear seats, wearing of seat belts is compulsory only for the driver and the person in the adjacent seat. The city traffic police initiated a campaign to implement the seat belt rule in 2013. A total of 1,68,687 cases were booked against violators in 2013. In 2014, 98,266 cases had been registered till May end. Mr Dayananda said that there was nearly 90 per cent compliance in the city.

However, the penalty for violation is a meagre Rs. 100 and there are no stringent provisions to penalise repeat offenders.

Piyush Tewari of Save Life Foundation, a non-governmental organisation working for road safety, told The Hindu that it was high time wearing seat belts in rear seats of cars is made compulsory. He said that in many accidents, passengers in the rear seat turn into heavy weight projectiles during a collision and pose a danger to those seated in the front seat as well. He said that the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 is outdated and needs a drastic overhaul, as it has not caught up with present-day challenges. The law was introduced before the country went in for economic liberalisation in the early ‘90s and saw only a minor amendment in 2001.

Meanwhile, in a statement, Dr Harsh Vardhan has said, “Research in the UK has shown that wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger car occupants by 45 per cent, and risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 per cent.

For those riding in the rear of vans and sport-utility vehicles (SUVs), rear seat belts are 73 per cent better at preventing fatalities. Also, children are likely to be buckled 92 per cent of the time when adults in the car use seat belts, as opposed to 72 per cent of the time when adults are not using them.”

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