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Buckling up to save lives

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By: Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit

Road traffic injuries are major public health problems and a leading cause of death and injury around the world. Approximately 1.2 million people are killed each year in road crashes worldwide, with up to 50 million more injured.

Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari has already announced that the central government would now make it mandatory for all travelers in a car to wear a seat belt and a penalty has already been decided for defaulters, regardless of whether they are in the front or rear seat.

In 2021, around 500,000 road accidents happened in the country, killing 150,000 people. If we look at the recent incident,  the death of former Tata Group chief Cyrus Mistry has led to a discussion on the necessity of seat belts while travelling in a car.

According to the police, Mistry, who was sitting in the car’s rear seat, was not wearing a seat belt. The injury thus became fatal. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, over 1.55 lakh lives were lost in road crashes across India in 2021 — an average of 426 daily or 18 every single hour which is the highest death figures recorded in any calendar year so far.

The simple act of wearing a seat belt is the single most effective way to reduce the risk of fatality in a crash. The seat-belt is the single most effective feature in a vehicle to reduce the severity of injury to the vehicle occupants that results from road traffic crashes. Failure to use a seat-belt is a major risk factor for road traffic deaths and injuries among vehicle occupants.

A seat belt reduces by half the risk of being killed or seriously injured in an accident. The higher the speed, the greater the impact: at 50 km/h, it is like falling from a 4-storey building. at 75 km/h, it is like falling from an 8-storey building.The results showed that failure to wear the seat belt by drivers are likely to increase the risk of fatal and sever injury significantly.

Moreover, distraction and road type road can contribute to the accident severity. Not just life, but seat belt use by front and rear passengers will restrain them from being ejected from their seat or in a high impact collision, even being thrown out of the car, thus saving them from severe facial, head, spine and thoracic injuries. As per the World Health Organisation, the use of rear seat-belts can prevent lower the risk of death in the rear seat by upto 25%.

Seatbelt reminders will go a long way, but there are those who will still bypass this, and then there are some who mean to wear them, but forget or wrongly believe it’s only above a certain speed. Wearing a seat belt should not cause any discomfort or pressure when adjusted properly. Seat belts have come a long way in the comfort department since becoming a mandatory feature in cars in the 1960s.

Improperly worn seatbelts pose a significant risk to patients. The seat-belt is an effective safety tool that not only saves lives, but also significantly reduces the severity of the injury that a vehicle occupant may have sustained if they were not wearing the device.

It only takes about three seconds to strap on your seat belt. That’s less time than it takes to tie your shoe. Living in such a rapidly changing world, it’s easy to take innovations for granted, but remember that seatbelts were designed with one goal in mind: to protect you.

(The author is based at Jodhpur Tekra, Ahmedabad)

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