Indian Motorists Seem to Despise the Seat Belt

When a nation with a population of more than a billion prefers not to buckle up, there is a real big problem.

Only 25 percent of car occupants in India wear their seat belts regularly, as per a study conducted by Maruti Suzuki India Limited. 

This statistic comes from a research study carried out by India’s leading automaker, as part of a social campaign called “#PehniKya?” that they are running revolving around the use of seat belts and occupant safety.

Other key findings showed that 32 percent of those who partook in the survey confessed to not wearing seatbelts due to weak law enforcement, 27 percent of Indians chose not to wear them because it impacted their image and another 25 percent don’t out of fear that it would ruin their clothes. 

What is more surprisingly is that an overwhelming 23 percent did not consider seat belts as safety devices at all. And 20 percent didn’t feel the need to wear them as their kith and kin don’t use seat belts either. But we say, better a creased shirt or a negative image, over being one among the 15 people who take up a spot in the obituaries page due to fatalities that could have been prevented with a seatbelt.

With regards to rear cabin seating, Maruti Suzuki’s study also brought to light that up to 80 percent of singles did not have the mind to be strapped in. The figure reduces to 66 percent for married individuals without kids and reduces further down for married people with kids, at 55 percent. So having a family does play a role.

The study was conducted in 17 cities across all zones in India (North, East, South, and West) and include metros and tier I and II cities. The sample size of the survey was 2,505 respondents including 1,122 drivers, 946 co-drivers, and 437 rear-seat passengers.

Data collated by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways indicated that 5,638 accident deaths in India in 2016 were associated with those not having their seatbelts fastened. According to the World Health Organization, seat belts are the primary restraint system that can minimize the risk of fatality by some 45 to 60 percent. 

If an occupant is not wearing a seatbelt, an airbag may cause more harm in the event of a crash. Interestingly, airbags aren’t government-mandated safety equipment for cars in India. In fact, it is a cost option swaying motorists away from having this life-saving feature in their cars.

In many regions in the country, it is also widely accepted that only the driver needs to wear a seat belt and the passengers do not. In a similar scenario, if we replace cars with motorcycles, only the rider is expected to wear a helmet, not the passenger. 

For overall road safety and to reduce the number of road fatalities in India, it would first take a shift in attitude towards safety, starting with the use of the simplest safety features like seatbelts. And campaigns such as “#PehniKya?” that engage the public are expected to do this. So before I say, here’s to a better tomorrow, let me first say…here’s to a tomorrow.