Health ministry plans seat-belt campaign

A simple habit of wearing seat belt even while sitting in the rear seat of a car could have saved Union minister Gopinath Munde, says Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, who plans to launch a nationwide campaign to promote safety protocols while driving.

“Most people think rear seat belts serve only a decorative purpose. But wearing them is as necessary as wearing front seat belts. They can save lives in the event of impacts,” he said, citing past cases of famous victims, who died due to small but fatal negligence.

The most notable case was Princess Diana who died in 1997. Later it was confirmed that of the four inmates in the ill-fated car, the lone survivor, bodyguard Trevor Rees Jones, owed his escape to the fact that he wore a seat belt.

On Tuesday, Munde died within seconds of his car being hit by another vehicle. The impact within the confined space of the car pushed him forward and broke his neck between the first and second vertebra. It cut off blood supply to the brain stem, causing immediate death.

“The damage to the human body is often greater when the victim is not ejected from the vehicle. Internal organs are badly damaged then and scientific tests have proved wearing safety belts give them hope of survival,” Vardhan said.

In a 2004 report, the World Health Organisation describes road traffic injuries as a major public health crisis that kills 1.2 million people every year and injure 20-50 million more. Without any action, the injuries will rise dramatically by 2020.

An Indian assessment, carried out by a community medicine researcher from Tamil Nadu, shows that India tops the list of death due to road accidents with more than 1.3 lakh casualties every year.

Until two years ago, the International Road Federation placed India at the second spot, behind China. But China managed to reduce the number of road deaths whereas in India the situation worsened, said S Gopalkrishnan from SRM Medical College.

Vardhan said the Health Ministry was considering a multi-media campaign to educate people on safety protocols while driving.

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