To strengthen road safety standards, the ministry of road transport and highways will soon make basic safety features like air bags and disc brakes compulsory for all passenger vehicles and two-wheelers, respectively. To start with, the bags will have to be installed only for front two seats of the vehicles.
However, the automobile industry is resisting the move, saying the new norms would inflate costs and hit sales at a time consumption in the economy is weak.
The move is part of the road safety mission of new roads minister Nitin Gadkari, who after former rural development minister Gopinath Munde’s death in a mishap in the capital had stressed priority would be given to road safety norms.
Annually, at least 1.4 lakh people are killed in road crashes in India and the country has the worst record among all nations.
“Gadkari has already reviewed the issues of road safety on a number of parameters, such as implementation of law, need for a common database for driving licences, and possibility of engineering interventions needed in the vehicles,” a road ministry official said.
Feedback was also taken from various departments and the police on how road safety standards can be improved and the number of road accidents brought down, the official added.
Further, sources said, both the ministry of road transport and highways and the department of heavy industries have been discussing how the government should redraft the safety norms in sync with those in six advanced nations — US, Canada, Singapore, Japan, Germany and the UK — with a view to introducing these in India.
“The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers is not happy with the move since it feels the manufacturing costs would increase in the range of Rs 30,000-70,000 as per the car specifications. They feel once this cost burden is transferred to the consumer, it will impact the sales drastically,” the road ministry official added.
Analysts who are assisting the government on road safety measures, on the other hand, feel such introduction would definitely help in reducing road fatalities in the country. “Once air bags and disc brakes are made mandatory it will have a major impact... We just have seat belts as a safety measure in the cars today which alone is not enough. Strict enforcement of policies, both in terms of government notifications and passenger awareness will further improve the system,” said a senior government official who did not wish to be