Making seat belts matter

Pan-India survey shows most believe roads to be unsafe for children 

Published - January 13, 2019 12:02 am IST

Color detail of the seat belt icon on the dashboard of a car.

Color detail of the seat belt icon on the dashboard of a car.

India has a law mandating the use of rear seatbelts in vehicles in India. However, a pan-India survey has found that 9 out of 10 (91.2%) neither use a rear seatbelt nor a child seat. This is worrying as studies show that in the case of children, seat belt use can reduce the risk of death by 25% and injury by 75% in car accidents. Seatbelts can also have a direct impact on the extent of the injury suffered by a passenger in the front seat.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018, road crashes are the leading cause of death among children in the age group of 5-14, and young adults from 15-29 years.

India-based study

A new study, “Rear Seat-Belt Usage and Child Road Safety in India” by Nissan India and SaveLIFE Foundation, documents for the first time in India the state of child safety on Indian roads and public perception and expectations regarding the use of rear seatbelts.

The study also focussed on the safety of children while commuting and showed that two-thirds of respondents believe that Indian roads are unsafe for children. Despite 92.8% of the respondents reportedly being aware of the safety benefits of child helmets, only 20.1% of them owned one. This becomes all the more relevant as data by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways show that in 2017, 9,408 children lost their lives to road crashes. This translates to nearly 26 child deaths on Indian roads every day.

On Motor Vehicle Bill

Says Piyush Tewari, founder and CEO SaveLIFE: “We were expecting the Motor Vehicle Amendment Bill, with comprehensive statutes for child safety, to be passed in the Rajya Sabha in this session but that hasn’t happened. So we have appealed to the Central Government to bring an ordinance to address the issue urgently. Our point is if it can be done for e-rickshaws, it can be done to prevent the death of one child every hour on our streets. The findings will enable us to specifically target road-user groups for training and education campaigns. They’ll also help us work with the Government and Supreme Court in getting relevant directions issued.”

The study notes: “High road-crash fatality cannot be accepted as the norm. It is time that basic provisions such as child helmets, safety measures in school zones, child seats, special training for school bus and van drivers, and adult-accountability be made mandatory across the country.”

The study covered 11 Indian cities and recorded responses through 6,306 face-to-face interviews, 100 in-depth expert interviews, two focus-group discussions and on-site observations to gauge compliance of Central Board of Secondary Education School Bus guidelines as well as use of rear seatbelts.

Global context

Road traffic injuries claim more than 1.35 million lives each year globally. However, the burden of road crash deaths is disproportionately high among low and middle-income countries.

According to WHO, approximately 1.2 million people are killed each year in road crashes worldwide, with up to 50 million more injured. Over 95% of these deaths and injuries occur in the low- and middle-income countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe.

In Japan, road deaths fell by approximately 20% between 1980 and 2000. In contrast, over the same period, road deaths increased from 50-100% in low- and middle-income countries.

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