The accidental death of Cyrus Mistry, the former Tata Sons chairman, has left the country shocked. According to reports, Mistry wasn't wearing a seat belt while travelling in the backseat of his luxury car. For time being, overspeeding and lack of judgement by the driver of the car are suspected of having caused the accident, however, a more detailed investigation of the accident is to be carried out. This major accident raises several questions about the lack of road safety and how vulnerable passengers can be to road accidents, even while travelling in luxury cars.
Cyrus Mistry was travelling with three others when the accident happened as the car he was travelling in smashed into a divider near Mumbai. While the accident claimed the lives of those travelling in the back seat, including Mistry, the other two were also seriously injured. According to the reports, those travelling in the back seat were not wearing seat belts, because of which the curtain airbags didn't open for them.
We talked to Piyush Tewari, founder and CEO of Save Life Foundation, a foundation actively working towards road safety, about the accident and the importance of wearing a seat belt even in rear seats. Piyush and his team are working alongside Maharashtra Police in the investigation of the Cyrus Mistry accident. He says, "In any accident, the passengers either smash into the interiors of the car, to other passengers and in some cases, they even may be ejected out of the windows, which can cause serious injuries. Thus, it is important to wear seat belts to avoid any injury because of the violent shock the body goes through during such accidents. It is equally important to wear seat belts in the rear seat as well, as they are equally vulnerable to accidents and injuries. In a lot of cases we investigate, we find that not wearing a seat belt is a major cause of road accident deaths."
He adds further on the Cyrus Mistry case, "As far as deployment of the airbags goes, it depends on vehicle to vehicle, thus, nothing can be said really until the investigation is complete."
International Road Federation (IRF), a Geneva-based body, expressed condolences on the death of Mistry on September 4, 2022. In the statement, which the IRF issued following Mistry's death the agency pointed out that India accounts for more than 11 per cent of the road accident deaths worldwide with 426 lives lost every day and 18 every hour.|It also stated that over 1.6 lakh lives were lost in the year 2021 and emphasised that most of the road accident deaths are avoidable.
Rohit Baluja, Director of Board, College of Traffic Management believes that the implementation of road safety rules is what needs to be questioned in the cases of road accidents. He says, "While the Police has cited overspeeding as the cause of accident, the more important questions are whether there was a speed limit sign on the highway? How many speed challans were imposed there in the last one month?" He further says that even though National Highways don't cover more than 4% of the road area in India, they claim more than 39% of road accidents, which points towards the lack of proper implementation of road safety rules.
According to Baluja, it is a national law to wear seat belts in the rear seat as well but it hardly implemented. He says, "I am happy that because of this case, people are at least talking about road safety. The police in India isn't specially trained to investigate road accident cases."
He further points out that there is a need of proper signages on the highways and of enforcement of traffic rules and that it is very important to wear seat belts in the back seats.
We also talked to Ullas PR, a road safety activist, regarding the lack of awareness about the importance of seat belts in rear seats among people. He says, "The senses of those travelling in the passenger and driver seat are more active. However, those in the back seat are more relaxed and thus, they are more vulnerable to injuries. Thus, it is important to wear seat belt in the rear seats as well."
He further lays emphasis on spreading awareness about the same. He says, "People should be made aware of the importance of wearing seat belts in the back seats. It may be through campaigns or by imposing fine on those not found wearing seat belts, but it is of utmost importance that people wear seat belts in the back seats."