One-third of motorists skip seat belts

Around 70 per cent of front-seat car occupants in Indian metros, including Delhi, click on seat belts before starting their journey. But this figure pales against 98 per cent compliance with this crucial road safety rule in smart cities of France, German and Japan. 

Wearing seat belts reduces the risk of a fatal injury by up to 50 per cent for front- seat occupants and up to 75 per cent for rear-seat occupants, the WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013, says.

An Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi study too has shown that seat belts are worn by 70-80 per cent drivers and front seat passengers in Indian metros. But the situation is different in other parts of the country where enforcement is poor.

Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training’s senior fellow S P Singh said drivers in India tend to avoid wearing seat belts thinking that they need them only at very high speeds.

“When a vehicle is moving at a speed of 30 km per hour and a collision takes place, the car occupant may get injured as seriously as a person who falls on a hard floor from a second floor of a building,” he said, adding that almost a third of drivers and front seat passengers in Delhi do no wear a seat belt.

Kanika Kalra of the Institute of Urban Transport said: “More people wear seat belts out of fear of law rather than their own safety.”

Special Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Muktesh Chander said the ideal scenario is when people use seat belt on their own.

“Enforcement of the law by penalising violations can only have a limited effect as long as the penalty amount is low,” he said.

Almost 1,050 drivers and front-seat travellers are fined daily in the capital for not using seat belts. Till November 30 this year, 3,86,016 people were fined by the traffic police for this violation. From January 1 to December 31 last year, 3,82,303 challans were filed.

According to the WHO report, nearly 98 per cent drivers use seat belts in countries like France, German and Japan.

In India, the new draft Road Transport and Safety Bill, 2014 talks of penalty of Rs 5,000 for not wearing seat belt. At present, violators are fined only Rs 100. 

In 2013, 198 accidents saw drivers themselves ramming their vehicles into poles, trees or road dividers. These accidents left 86 drivers dead but there are no detail on whether they were using seat belts.

S P Singh said, “Data related to exact cause of each road accident in our country is not in public domain and what little is available is not reliable.” 

In Australia, 28 per cent of deaths in car crashes are caused due to not wearing seat belts. In America, the figure is as high as 52 per cent. In Sweden, it is 45 per cent, according to the WHO report.

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