‘Wearing seat belt can save life during accident’

New Delhi : The “much avoidable” death of union minister Gopinath Munde in a car accident Tuesday has once again raised concerns over road safety, especially using seat belts while driving and travelling in cars.

A day after the tragedy, union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan confirmed reports in the media suggesting that Munde could have prevented his own death by simply putting on the seat belt of his car.

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He said: “I lost my friend to a misconception. Most people think that the back-seat belts serve only a decorative purpose. In fact wearing them is as necessary as wearing front seat belts. They can save lives in the event of impacts.”

Munde, 64 an important figure in Maharashtra politics, was going to the Indira Gandhi International Airport here in his Maruti Suzuki SX4 car that was hit by a Tata Indica.

According to a recent World Health Organisation report, India has the highest number of road deaths in the world – 105,725 in 400,000 accidents, followed by China (96,611), the US (42,642) and Russia (35,972). Of these deaths, 25 percent can be avoided by wearing seat belts.

“If the attitude of the policemen and the government authorities towards road safety remains the same, the number of deaths caused by not wearing safety seat belts cannot be halted, even in a 1,000 years. There should be special measures taken from all the stake holders so people realise the blunder they are committing by not wearing the seat belts while driving and travelling in cars,”, K.K. Kapila, chairman, International Road Federation (IRF), told IANS.

He said improper monitoring of people driving without putting on seat belts and letting them go without imposing a hefty fine has deteriorated the situation in the country.

“Prominent personalities need to be roped in to promote the wearing of safety seat belts”, he said.

It is not the first time a politician has been killed in a road fatality. Former Delhi chief minister Saheb Singh Verma was killed in a tragic road accident in Rajasthan in 2007.

Former union minister Rajesh Pilot died in a road mishap near his constituency Dausa in Rajasthan in June 2000.

Former prime minister Gyani Zail Singh died in a vehicle accident in Ropar district of Punjab in November 1994.

According to the IRF, a person dies in a road fatality in India every 60 seconds.

Prince Singhal, an activist who founded the NGO Campaign Against Drunken Driving (CADD) told IANS: “Not wearing seat belts while driving should be made a non-bailable offence. The people themselves need to realise that by not wearing seat belts, they are risking their lives.”

He said the first thing that needs to be done is to amend the Motor Vehicles Act by incorporating special provisions.

Singhal, however, added that increasing the fine amount cannot bring down road accidents caused by not wearing seat belts, as for some people paying hefty amount hardly matters.

“Unlike the people in western nations, we Indians are not trained to follow safety measures since childhood. We have a tendency of ignoring even those things that benefit us. So, the government needs to make laws stringent and ensure those are enforced, as the recent death of the union minister has proved that law makers themselves violate norms,” he said.