On 3rd June, 2014, Sri Gopinath Munde, Indian Union Minister for Rural Development, died at a Delhi intersection when a Tata Indica car hit his Maruti Suzuki SX4 car on the side where he was sitting in a back seat. Union Health Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan said that Mr Munde was not wearing a seat belt. Seat belts are compulsory in India only for drivers and front passengers, not for back-seat passengers.
Due to the impact, Mr Munde sustained Cervical Cord injury and Liver rupture, leading to acute hemorrhagic shock. This caused Heart attack, followed by death. Mr Munde was taken to the nearby hospital, but could not be revived.
This tragic death has opened a debate. Many are demanding that seat belts should be made compulsory for all passengers in a car. Hefty fines should be imposed for those who do not follow the rule.
With the unwelcome statistics (quoted below), there is no doubt that India needs to lift its game in regards to roadside safety.
India should work hard, and speedily, to change the undesirable statistics of its roadside loss of lives.
India contributes 12% of total worldwide Traffic fatalities.
In 2012, 1.4 Lacs (140,000) people lost their lives due to road/traffic accidents in India. One could assume that quite a significant numbers would be those who were passengers in vehicles and were not wearing seat belts.
In the same year, 26 Lacs (2.6 million) people sustained serious injuries on the Roads.
These numbers may well be an under-estimate because of less than standard documentation and record-keeping at least outside metropolitan cities and particularly in regional/rural areas.
It is known that speeding, drink-driving, poor compliance in following traffic rules, as well as pathetic state of Indian roads are responsible for such bad statistics.
This should change, and change soon.
Indian Government should initiate the process, while working with relevant stake-holders including State Governments, to make it compulsory for all passengers to wear seat belts, just like it is in all of Western World. In Australia and many other countries, there is hefty fines for the driver if any passenger is found to be not using seat belts.
It is known that;
1. seat belts reduce the risk of death and serious injuries by approx. 50%,
2. there is 30 times more risk of ejection out of car if a seat belt was not used,
3. three out of four (75%) end up in fatalities if they are ejected from a car.
An education programme to make people aware of traffic safety rules is required, and enforcement of these rules must be stepped up.
While at it, it is crucial that state of Indian roads must be improved so that they do not continue to act as death-traps.
Nobody can argue against the need of Roads and traffic safety in India receiving urgent attention.