India 1370 road accidents happen everyday, out of which 400 result in death. As per the Annual Report published by Ministry of Road Transport & Highways in 2016, “Road accidents are now globally recognized as a serious public health problem.” Rs. 6 billion have been earmarked during 2016-17 for the remediation of road engineering defects. In the same breath the Ministry and the Traffic Research Wing has also voiced out request to analyze the trends and to evolve clear-cut policy responses.
77% of road accidents happen due to fault of the driver. Needless to say, the driver’s fault puts lives of co-passengers and other people in vicinity at fatal risk.
Research shows that in case of a head-on collision, a person sitting on the rear seat without a seat belt increases the chance of fatalities by 50%. Not only does the rear passenger, bear the maximum brunt of a crash, but they are also catapulted forward, hitting the person on the front seat into an exploding air bag. The use of rear seat belts reduces these risks by 73% and children are likely to be 92% safer if they use rear seat belts.
Here we want to share a vivid account of a polytrauma (multiple traumatic injuries) case. “Son is driving Toyota Corolla, the car is cruising at 130 kmph on Delhi Mathura Highway and mother is seating in the rear seat. This is a respectable well-educated law abiding family so, the son has put on the seat belt. A trailer suddenly decides to cut in the highway like he owns the road and the son cruising at 130 kmph gets very little reaction time to apply the brakes, rams into the trailer. Thankfully, the front seat belt and air bags acted instantaneously saving the son’s life and sparing him with only mild bruises. But when he regains consciousness he finds out that laws of physics weren’t so kind to his mother who wasn’t wearing rear seat belt and due to tremendous momentum jumped out from the car along with the windshield, shattering almost 17 bones in her body and rupturing her lungs.”
Fortunately even for her, she was in the able hands of an expert doctor who treated her well and she would be fine after 6 months of bed rest.
Here are some critical questions :
- Why isn’t it mandatory for all passengers to wear seat belts?
- Why is it assumed that only front seat passengers are at risk? Even though the data seems to indicate otherwise.
- Almost all the developed countries have already made it mandatory for all passengers to wear seat belts. It is disheartening to see our government have such regressive approach. Why can’t we just be logical and look at data rather than always look up to the developed nations and decide what should be done?
- Apparently, the traffic is a state subject in the federal structure of the Indian constitution, traffic regulations have to be notified and enforced by each state. Any national law does not yet govern the use of seat belts by rear seat occupants. Why don’t we have a national law so that states can enforce it over time? n
Dr. Yuvraj Kumar
Dr. Yuvraj Kumar is a Head of Department & Senior Consultant
Dr Rakesh Kumar
Dr Rakesh Kumar is a Consultant in Dept. of Orthopedics at Asian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS), Faridabad.