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The tragic death of former Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry has refocused public attention on car safety features and passenger habits. The modern luxury car has numerous safety features. Are they enough to bring down fatalities? Mint takes a look.

How safe is a luxury car in India?

Luxury cars in India host safety features like airbags, seat belts with pretensioners, anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) and electronic stability programme (ESP) that judges the performance of the vehicle as per terrain. Many luxury SUVs have different terrain management systems for rough roads, snow, sand or slush. More advanced cars may also be equipped with level 1 or 2 autonomous driving technologies which use high-tech cameras and Lidars to prompt the driver of obstacles on the road and even apply brakes on its own in emergency situations.

Do airbags deploy without seat belts?

Airbags are considered passive safety systems that deploy when sensors on the vehicle trigger a collision warning irrespective of whether seat belts are fastened. The efficacy of both systems, however, is best when used in conjunction. The seat belt keeps the occupant in place, enabling the best posture for an airbag to work. Not wearing a seat belt in a car with airbags can be counter-productive as the airbag deployment itself could lead to injuries. Bottomline: The humble 60-year-old three-point seat belt remains the most potent protection against fatal injuries in a road accident.

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Photo: iStock

Can autonomous tech help reduce accidents?

Given that most accidents happen due to human error, autonomous technologies where computers take decisions have been pitched as a solution. For them to work well, though, proper lane-marking and a level of consistency in behaviour by fellow road users is needed. It is likely that such vehicles may arrive in access-controlled fast highways in the country in future.

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Should rear seat belts be made mandatory?

Wearing seat belts is already mandatory for all passengers in a car, whether in the front or the rear seats. However, enforcement of the same for rear seats is not as stringent. With India’s road infrastructure improving and vehicular speeds going up, non-compliance by rear occupants is emerging as a prominent reason for fatalities. Seat belt alarms for rear, just like it has been introduced for front seats, could be one of the ways to increase compliance and in turn reduce fatal accidents.

Will more airbags make cars safer?

The government has been strengthening safety norms, with dual airbags mandatory today. There is widespread expectation that soon, six airbags would become mandatory as well. It will decidedly make cars safer, but low seatbelt compliance could undermine it. A 2018 survey commissioned by Maruti Suzuki revealed 75% of vehicle users in India do not wear seat belts, resulting in 15 deaths everyday. Mistry’s death is a stark reminder of the risk of not wearing a belt even in a car with six airbags.

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