Another tragic high-profile death in a road accident was in part due to the fact the victim was not wearing a seatbelt according to the police
The tragic death of Nandamuri Harikrishna, son of the former movie and political Telugu colossus, NT Rama Rao might unfortunately become just another statistic of deaths on Indian roads. He died in a road accident when the Toyota Innova he was driving hit the median and turned turtle. However, we should not let this happen, because if the local police are to be believed, he was not wearing a seatbelt. While many police reports of road accidents in India are unreliable, they often cite excessive speed and potential inebriation of the driver, this was a fascinating find as it appeared that the ‘seatbelt not on’ warning buzzer had been deliberately deactivated.
This just highlights some of the cases and points raised by Maruti-Suzuki in their #PehniKya campaign to promote seatbelt use last year. It is true that at very high speeds seatbelts and airbags cannot do much to save lives, but the fact is that seatbelts in conjunction with airbags can often save lives and prevent really serious injuries in more moderate speed accidents. Again, remember that airbags by themselves cannot save lives, indeed they increase the potential of serious and fatal injuries if they are used without seatbelts and modern head restraints on car seats. Airbags are, and are marked as ‘Supplementary Restraint Systems’ for that very reason.
Indian roads are dangerous enough as they are, but by not wearing seatbelts we are unnecessarily making them more dangerous. The study conducted by Maruti-Suzuki last year showed that only 25 per cent of all Indians wear seatbelts. The same thing applies to the millions of motorcyclists in India who do not wear helmets and triple-ride. That said, it is heartening to know that the traffic police in some cities are cracking down on such violators, but the solution to this is not just fear of a fine and punishment. The solution to this has to be education and valuing lives.
And education is not a function of how wealthy people are, but just knowledgeable. For example, putting a child under four feet tall in the front seat of a car with an airbag is dangerous, because if the airbag were to deploy, the child could die from whiplash injuries. Even in the rear, children must ideally be placed in a child seat, but of course neither of these two things are mandatory in India nor are child helmets on two-wheelers.
The fact is in India while our politicians have needlessly stalled the amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act under the banner of states rights, our problem is not one of a lack of rules and regulations but purely of enforcement. The traffic management skills of our police force and traffic planning skills of many city planners is poor and sometimes that leads to some ‘solutions’ making the problem worse.
That said, the plaintive plea of this writer is that we should make our roads safer and that starts with you, dear reader. So belt up, whether you are sitting the front or the back and if you are in a two-wheeler wear a helmet and don’t carry more than one person behind you. This is about your lives and those you care about, if you can change your habits, you can make a difference to everyone around you.