The ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) has proposed making air bags mandatory for the front passenger seat from April 1, 2021 for new models and June 1, 2021 for existing models.
The MoRTH had already made air bags for the drivers seat mandatory in 2019. Experts have welcomed the move, but add that customers must start prioritising their safety while purchasing a car.
In 2018, 1.35 million people were killed in road accidents across the world, with 90 percent of casualties taking place in developing countries and 11 percent being accounted for by India. 151,113 people died in road accidents in India in 2019 out of which 16 percent or 24,178 were those who were traveling in cars, jeeps or taxis.
According to Rohit Baluja, one of India's leading experts on road safety and vehicle crashes, both drivers and co passengers need to be supported by air bags. Baluja does not agree with the view that entry level small cars do not need an air bag for the front passenger seat, next to the driver.
Some industry executives have argued that small cars are mostly driven within city limits and not at very high speeds. Baluja says that highways and expressways have a maximum speed limit of 100 km/hour and 120 km/hour respectively and most of the time both small and bigger cars are driven at similar speeds.
"Examples of developed nations show that we need both seat belts and front air bags. In case of a fatal crash, these are the only passive safety features that can save you," he said. It is also important to point out that over speeding is the cause for 67 percent of road accidents.
According to a 2019 ministry of road transport report, in 20,885 road accident deaths, the drivers and passengers were not wearing seat belts. Auto industry veterans like RC Bhargava have called for strict enforcement of the seat belt rule as air bags can cause serious injury in an accident, if the passenger is not wearing a seat belt.
Industry sources have told CNBC-TV18, that a mandatory installation of front air bags, next to the driver would raise vehicle costs by Rs 5,000-7,000 and the three month deadline for implementation is too short. Experts like Rohit Baluja believe that customers need to understand that this is for their safety and when customers put safety first, manufacturers will follow suit.
According to air bag suppliers, the industry would have no issues in addressing the additional requirement for air bags within the stipulated timeline. All vehicle manufacturers were anyway providing an option of dual front air bags in higher end variants of their cars.
"There would be no problem in addressing the demand for additional air bags. Anyway almost 70 percent of the cars are being sold with dual front air bags so there would be no problem in ramping up supplies of air bags," said Harish Lakshman, the vice chairman of the Rane Group, one of the major suppliers of air bags to vehicle manufacturers. Lakshman also added that all developed countries have regulations requiring dual front air bags.
(Edited by : Jomy)
First Published: IST