The recent recommendation by the Union Transport Ministry stipulating seat belts for rear seat passengers will take time for the state to follow.
“Only some cars have seat belt for their rear seats. Even the front passenger seat belts surfaced only after 2002. Therefore, it will take time to enforce it in the state,” said sources in the Motor Vehicle Department. However, the officials pointed out that the law stipulating seat belts for rear seat passengers, enacted in 2002, has now been pushed for implementation by a working group at the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
Senior Deputy Transport Commissioner P K Stephen said that so far no directive has come to ensure its enforcement. “The enforcement officers will have to be notified about the law. Motor Vehicles Department is planning to examine road accident statistics to understand how vital seat belts are for rear seats,” he said.
All cars manufactured after 1994 have lap and shoulder belts for the occupants of driver’s seat and front seat. In 2002 the seat belt laws were expanded to cover rear seat passengers. Officials at the department said that from the beginning they ensured that every car manufacturer complied with the law, as it was the latter’s responsibility to produce vehicles with backseat belts. However, even though every car now comes with a rear seat belt, most customers treat it like an unwanted addition. Some of them even do away with it, while servicing it. The law, if enforced, will punish offenders with a fine of Rs 100. Stephen added that there could be a protest against another recommendation, which intends to make helmet for pillion riders compulsory. Though the Department had tried to enforce it earlier, it had to back track after widespread protests.
The recommendations are now being studied by a three-member committee headed by Supreme Court Judge K S Radhakrishnan. The directive will be issued only after a division bench headed by the Chief Justice of India examines the committee’s report.
Ford has ensured seat belts for the backseat of its Indian models since 1998, the time it began production in the country. However, if a customer doesn’t like to use it, we cannot do much. Once the car is sold, our job is over. The rest is each individual’s wish.
- Antony Thomas, Sales manager, Kairali Ford, T’Puram.
Every car in India comes with an inbuilt seat belt for the rear seat passenger. We have rarely seen anyone using it. Most of the time, when they get upholstery done, they make some convenient changes. Quite often, the ‘extra’ seat belt is pushed under the seat covers.
- Gireesh Chandrababu, Sales manager, Popular Vehicles and Services Ltd.
I am all for making seat belts compulsory for the rear seat passengers. Many think seat belts are only for the driver, and do not bother to use it when they sit in the front passenger seat. I’ve heard that actor Jagathy Sreekumar had his fatal accident when he was sitting at the back. A few times my mother’s head has hit the front seat. So when we go for long drives, we insist the use of the rear seat belt.
- Shino P M, Advertising professional.
The law that every seat should have a seat belt was introduced so many years ago. But it was not strictly enforced. So, even though all cars have seat belts, most of the time only the person in the driver’s seat uses it. If the police strictly inspects every passing car, like they have done in the case of helmets, there will be some change.
- R Prabhukumar, Driving instructor.